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The Urantia Book: A Brief Description

by Eric Pement

(This article was originally published in 1992. Several details are no longer current.)

A book which appears frequently in the hands of mystical, New Age, and spiritual seekers is The Urantia Book. Easily recognizable as a massive blue $34 hardback, The Urantia Book consists of 2097 pages of channeled material. Though first published in 1955, the bulk of its material was actually channeled in the early 1930s. (Its publishers and supporters dislike speaking of The Urantia Book in terms of "channeling" or "spirit mediumship," since this draws attention to its anonymous human author, who wished his identity to be kept a secret.)

After nearly forty years of mystery, the author's veil of anonymity has finally been removed. The story behind the channeler's "secret identity" is actually quite fascinating. But first, some background information about the book.

There are currently more than 235,000 copies of The Urantia Book in print in two languages, English and French. Translations in Spanish and Finnish are forthcoming later in 1992, as well as a computerized version for electronic searches. Independent and "unauthorized" Urantia Book readers have published a massive Concordex and other study materials.

The Urantia Book contains 196 separate messages (plus a Foreword) from alleged disembodied beings in "higher" universes. Their discourses resemble what one might expect from religious alien intelligences, complete with galactic councils and interstellar colonization projects by angelic hierarchies. The "messengers" identify themselves with names like Divine Counselor, Melchizedek, Life Carrier, Midwayer Commission, Brilliant Evening Star, and Perfector of Wisdom. The planet Earth (which they refer to as "Urantia") is said to be down near the bottom of a cosmic scale of galaxies, universes, and superuniverses, all inhabited by billions of physical, etheric, and angelic beings.

The book is divided into four sections, describing an array of universes, "correcting" our concepts of God and Spirit, giving the "real" evolutionary history of earth and its religions, and offering a detailed revision of the life and words of Jesus Christ. The Urantia Book begins with copious quotations from the New Testament, particularly the writings of John. Early on, we learn that the creedal doctrine of the Trinity is false---there are really three Trinities and seven Triunities, with different members in each. We also find that Jesus Christ is merely the seventh incarnation ("bestowal") of Michael of Nebadon (our "local universe"), the 611,121st Creator Son sent out by the Paradise Trinity. There are many others like him on other worlds, all "Michaels" and "only-begotten Sons" in their own right.

Unlike most channeled writings, The Urantia Book rejects the teachings of reincarnation and astrology. However, in line with other mediumistic revelations, it is dead-set against traditional Christian doctrines, including the inerrancy of Scripture, simple Trinitarianism, the Fall of man, original sin, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, faith and repentance for salvation, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal punishment.

The Urantia Book records Jesus telling his disciple Nathaniel, "The Scriptures are faulty and altogether human in origin" (page 1767); and while "the Scriptures contain much that is true, . . . these writings also contain much that is misrepresentative of the Father in heaven" (1768). The Jesus of The Urantia Book flatly denounces "this erroneous idea of the absolute perfection of the Scripture record and the infallibility of its teachings" (1768).

Likewise, the book says, "There has been no 'fall of man.' The history of the human race is one of progressive evolution . . . " (846). God's covenant with Israel is referred to as "the chosen-people delusion" (1005). And the atonement of Jesus is emphatically denied:

"The barbarous idea of appeasing an angry God, of propitiating an offended Lord, of winning the favor of Deity through sacrifices and penance and even by the shedding of blood, represents a religion wholly puerile and primitive. . . . It is an affront to God to believe, hold, or teach that innocent blood must be shed in order to win his favor or to divert the fictitious divine wrath" (60).

Toward the end of the book we read, "All this concept of atonement and sacrificial salvation is rooted and grounded in selfishness. . . . Salvation should be taken for granted by those who believe in the fatherhood of God" (2017).

The real gospel of Jesus, according to The Urantia Book, is simply "the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men" (2042, 2059), i.e., that "all men are the sons of God" already (1585). No act of reconciliation is needed, we simply open our eyes to this fact. Yet even as early as Pentecost, the book laments, the religion of Jesus became twisted into a religion about Jesus (2066, 2091) and thus the original Gospel was lost.

Indeed, with one mighty swipe, The Urantia Book accomplishes what few other cultic writings have expressed in one breath, namely, the rejection of every significant doctrine of Christianity and Judaism:

"The cardinal religious ideas of incantation, inspiration, revelation, propitiation, repentance, atonement, intercession, sacrifice, prayer, confession, worship, survival after death, sacrament, ritual, ransom, salvation, redemption, convenant, uncleanness, purification, prophecy, original sin -- they all go back to the early times of primordial ghost fear" (1005).

The surrounding context makes it plain that these relics of an earlier age are untrue and should be dispensed with by enlightened humanity. How did this all come about?

Ironically, it was a Seventh-day Adventist minister and physician who was ultimately responsible for the publication of the Urantia papers. Dr. William S. Sadler, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Chicago and teacher of pastoral counseling at McCormick Theological Seminary, had spent over a decade debunking and refuting spiritualism, even assisting magician Harry Houdini in this task. His better-known works on this subject include The Truth About Spiritualism (1923) and The Mind at Mischief: Tricks of the Subconscious Mind (1929). However, researcher Steve Cannon tells about something that eventually turned Sadler around:

In the appendix of The Mind at Mischief Sadler recounts a story of one investigation into the psychic realm that he could not debunk. From the summer of 1911 until the time of his writing in 1929 he had a subject under observation who would go into a deep sleep out of which he could not be awakened. Sadler wrote: "This man is utterly unconscious, wholly oblivious to what takes place, and, unless told about it subsequently, never knows that he has been used as a sort of clearing house for the coming and going of alleged extra-planetary personalities" (Mind, 383). Of the communications themselves, "I can only say that I have found in these years of observation that all the information imparted through this source has proved to be consistent within itself. . . . Its philosophy is consistent. It is essentially Christian and is, on the whole, entirely harmonious with the known scientific facts and truths of this age" (Mind, 384). Sadler wanted to say more on the subject, but the person under investigation would not give his permission to do so.[1]

Beginning in 1923, Dr. Sadler invited a group of friends, informally known as The Forum, to examine these intelligences, which were now rapidly becoming more numerous. While the channeler slept, the spirits freely answered questions in a manner not unlike that of Edgar Cayce, the famed "sleeping prophet." Sadler and his cohorts compiled 4000 questions they wanted the spirits to answer. A few weeks later, the channeler handed Dr. Sadler a sheaf of 472 pages, answering every question which had been put to him/them. The channeler's wife told Sadler that the material had been written in a single evening. By 1935, the last of the messages was delivered, and the entities asked Dr. Sadler, by now a true believer and an ex-Adventist, that the work be published.[2] Twenty years later The Urantia Book appeared in print.

The identity of the channeler was kept secret for many years by the Urantia Foundation. In fact, the board of directors took a pledge of secrecy not to reveal the human author or its means of transmission. However, in 1991 Martin Gardner identified the channeler as Wilfred Custer Kellogg, son of Rev. Charles Leonidis Sobeski Kellogg, a Seventh-day Adventist minister from Vermont. Wilfred was a shirttail relative of W. K. Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg's Cornflake Company, and also happened to be William Sadler's brother-in-law (the men had married two sisters).

Wilfred moved to Illinois when he married, and he and his wife lived for a time with Dr. and Mrs. Sadler. He was one of the founding members of the Urantia Foundation, and his home was half a block from the present headquarters of the Foundation in Chicago. He died in 1956.

The Adventist background of both Kellogg and Sadler does explain a few things. For example, it's a point of Adventist doctrine that Jesus is really Michael the Archangel.[3] Martin Gardner pointed out some other interesting parallels with Adventism, notably how the name of an Adventist friend of Kellogg, G. W. Amadon, appears as an important figure of the Urantia papers. Gardner's articles were published in the Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1991, with significant corrections in the Fall 1991 issue. The Urantia Foundation officially has "no comment" on this matter.

More detailed Christian theological critiques of The Urantia Book have been published in 1987 by Personal Freedom Outreach (PO Box 26062, St. Louis, MO 23136) and in 1981 by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project (PO Box 4308, Berkeley, CA 94704). If you write, please send these ministries few dollars to cover the cost of photocopying and mailing.


1. Steven F. Cannon, "Evaluating The Urantia Book," Personal Freedom Outreach Newsletter 7, no. 4 (1987): pp. 4-6.

2. The account in this paragraph comes via Cannon, who found a great deal of information in a book by Harold Sherman, How to Know What to Believe (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publishing House, 1976). Sherman was one of the inner circle members of The Forum since 1942 until it was disbanded.

3. While Adventists equate Jesus with Michael the Archangel, they also accept the deity of Christ. They interpret "archangel" to mean "leader of the angels." Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, believe Jesus was Michael but reject the deity of Jesus; they consider him to be a true angel, i.e., a created being. The Urantia Book also rejects the deity of Jesus Christ.

Original publication information:
Eric Pement, "THE URANTIA BOOK: A Brief Description and Its Secret Author Discovered," Cornerstone (Chicago, ISSN 0275-2743), vol. 20, issue 97 (1992), pp. 19, 23.

Minor errors in spelling, punctuation, formatting, or grammar in the print edition of this article are corrected where discovered.

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