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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
 
THE SHERMAN DIARIES compiled and edited by Saskia Praamsma and Matthew Block
     

INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME ONE by Saskia Praamsma

THE subject of these diaries, author Harold Sherman (1898-1987), had a multi-faceted career. Starting out as a newspaper reporter and advertising copywriter, he went on to write hundreds of short stories for boys, dozens of juvenile sports books, adult novels, Broadway plays, radio and television scripts, Hollywood screenplays, and self-help books. Deeply idealistic and psychically gifted, he made a lifelong study into ESP and metaphysics, and authored many bestselling books in these fields, some of which are still in print. Early in life he sensed that he had a mission to perform for humanity, a mission somehow connected to his writing, a mission he tried earnestly to discover and actualize as he continued to write.

These Diaries are almost as much about his wife, Martha (1898-1998). Throughout Harold’s adult life she was his confidante, caretaker and best friend, happily making a home for them as Harold’s career took them from Indiana to New York to Hollywood to Chicago and finally to the Ozarks of Arkansas. Most significantly, she was his soulmate—they shared their spiritual life from beginning to end.

At twenty Harold wrote to Martha: “Our happiness will lie in bringing others happiness. Could you be content with doing this, sweetheart, and nothing more? . . . The glory of life is to love, not to be loved; to give not to get; to serve, not to be served. . . . Let us do all three in abundance and attract unto ourselves the real glory of existence!”

Harold Sherman’s life was so rich that one could write or compile a book about his Hollywood career alone, or his years as an ESP researcher, or his later work with the local citizens and politicians in Arkansas to have roads built, and to raise the standard of living there. This series of books, while touching on those aspects, focuses on the Shermans’ spiritual journey, and specifically on their involvement with the Urantia phenomenon and the people associated with it.

During the years of their stay in Chicago, from 1942 to 1947, they kept detailed diaries and wrote many letters which provide the only sustained, firsthand record of early Urantia history that has surfaced to date. As such, these Diaries are of primary importance to anyone interested in the Urantia Book and its history.

THE URANTIA BOOK was first published in 1955. It was, many believers say, the outcome of a mysterious event that occurred sometime between 1906 and 1911, when a Chicago physician named William S. Sadler began receiving messages from higher sources through a man he referred to as the “sleeping subject.” This man has never been identified.

The voluminous communications streaming in over the next several years described the nature of God, the structure and administration of the universe, angelic realms and beings, the afterlife, other inhabited planets, and the history of our planet, which the higher beings called “Urantia.” A “contact commission,” consisting of those who were present when the sleeping subject transmitted messages, was formed to act as a liaison between the humans and the superhumans. It was composed of Sadler and his wife, Dr. Lena K. Sadler; their son, Bill; their adopted daughter, Emma L. Christensen; Lena’s sister, Anna; and Anna’s husband, Wilfred C. Kellogg.

In 1924 a discussion group began to meet weekly at 533 Diversey Parkway, the Sadlers’ residence, to study the material as it was coming through. At the doctors’ request, the group submitted pertinent questions to the superhumans, via the contact commission, which led to expansions and elaborations of the material. Known as the Forum, the group was made up of interested individuals the Sadlers had recruited from their wide circle of patients and acquaintances. While some members came only a few times before moving on, it is believed that over the years more than four hundred people crossed the threshold at 533 to be exposed to the new teachings.

By the mid 1930s the higher beings had prepared and transmitted a prodigious document of 196 papers covering a vast range of subjects, including a highly detailed account of the life and teachings of Jesus. The Book of Urantia, as it was then called, was intended to be published and, as it spread, to prove itself to be a major revelation of truth from celestial beings to our world. The superhumans were to give permission for printing when the time was right; until then, the group was to prepare the Papers for publication and raise money for the plates. The Forumites were pledged to keep the entire Urantia phenomenon secret, to be talked about only among themselves.

ONE FORUMITE was a Chicago policeman and detective named Harry J. Loose. One evening in July 1921, when Loose was in Marion, Indiana, giving a Chautauqua lecture on crime and criminology, he was interviewed by Harold Sherman, then a young newspaper reporter. During their brief meeting, Loose dazzled Sherman with his unusual telepathic abilities and mentioned that he, Loose, would be dropping out of sight while on a “mission.”

Soon afterward, Harold and his family moved to New York where he, Harold, became a successful writer, playwright and radio personality, as well as a noted ESP experimenter. In 1941, he felt impelled to track down Harry Loose and learned that he was living in retirement in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, California.

The two men began a correspondence in which Loose intimated that he and Sherman had a bond spanning many lifetimes, that the two belonged to a special order of beings who incarnated on Earth periodically to perform important missions. He also imparted many concepts more clearly derived from the Urantia material.

Enticed and inspired by Loose’s repeated assertions that a great mission lay in store for him, Harold was anxious to see his mentor again face to face. His desire was realized in 1941, when a screenwriting assignment necessitated that he and his family move to Hollywood. In their weekly visits with Loose the Shermans learned of his connection to the mysterious teachings coming through in Chicago. They also learned that the custodian of the material, William S. Sadler, was a cousin of an old friend of theirs from Indiana, Josephine Davis, and it was through her that the Shermans were introduced to Sadler and accepted as Forum members during a brief trip to the Midwest.

For the remainder of their stay in California, the Shermans were now allowed to discuss the Urantia material with Harry Loose. Even though they had still not seen or read the papers, the couple were so impressed with what they heard that they made plans to move to Chicago to pursue a full-time study of the new teachings as soon as Harold’s screenwriting project was finished. Harold and Dr. Sadler also began a correspondence in which Harold expressed his ideas about the important role he believed he was destined to play in dramatizing aspects of the revelation to capture public attention.

IN MAY OF 1942 the Shermans moved to Chicago, staying at the Cambridge Apartment Hotel, directly across the street from 533. At that time weekly Forum attendance averaged around thirty to fifty people. Until the arrival of the Shermans, with one or two exceptions the Forumites had never criticized or challenged Dr. Sadler’s plans, which included setting up a membership society of Urantia believers and a self-elected Foundation to publish and protect the book.

At first the Shermans were warmly welcomed by the other Forum members, who admired Harold for his many accomplishments. Dr. Sadler and the other contact commissioners quickly took the Shermans into their confidence. This brief honeymoon period ended when Harold began to question and then to criticize the Doctor’s publication and organizational plans. In presenting his ideas to the other Forumites, Harold gained the support of the majority to petition the Doctor to allow the Forum to have a greater hand in decision-making.

The Doctor responded by calling in the signers of the petition, one by one, and pressuring them to remove their names, saying that he had received a message from the celestials declaring the Shermans “rebels.” He warned the signers that if they sided with the Shermans, or even associated with them, they would be classified likewise. In forcing the Forumites to choose between himself and the Shermans, most turned against the Shermans, who were never given the opportunity to remove their names.

BELIEVING IN the Urantia revelation and encouraged behind the scenes by Harry Loose, with whom they were still regularly corresponding, the Shermans stood their ground. Shunned by most of their peers, they remained in the Forum for five years, during which time they recorded what was said and done at every meeting they attended, per Loose’s instructions. This resulted in hundreds of pages of eyewitness accounts that portray Forum life with unmatched vividness and immediacy.

IN 1947 Harold and Martha left Chicago and settled on their 140-acre farm in the Ozarks of Arkansas, where Harold continued to write books on ESP, life after death, and self-help. He lectured widely and set up the ESP Research Associates in Little Rock, Arkansas, a popular center for ESP and metaphysical workshops. From time to time the Shermans returned to Hollywood where Harold wrote television scripts, which supplemented their income. The Shermans never returned to 533 but they did keep in touch over the years with the Forumites who had befriended them.

The only reference Harold made in his publications to the Urantia Book and its readership was in 1976, in a trade paperback called How to Know What to Believe. Its Chapter 5, “Pipeline to God,” was a highly abbreviated account of their five years in Chicago, in which the names of the Urantia Book and all the Forumites were changed. When the book was published, the hazily remembered petition-signing incident was made known to a new generation of Urantia Book readers who were curious about the mysterious beginnings of the revelation.

Clyde Bedell, one of the most prominent of the original Forum members, claimed in his refutation of Sherman’s book not to have remembered the Shermans attending the Forum during those five years. These Diaries reveal that the Shermans were indeed present at virtually every Sunday meeting between May 1942 and May 1947, and that Bedell was frequently out of town, which would account for his not remembering the couple.

In the early 1990s, skeptic Martin Gardner contacted Martha Sherman for information about early Urantia history, and in his 1995 book Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery, the existence of the Shermans’ voluminous diaries was revealed. Gardner also wrote that the diaries would be made available to the public in the year 2000.

Eagerly awaiting the release of the diaries, in January 2000, John Bunker and Karen Pressler, Urantia Book enthusiasts from Fort Wayne, Indiana, traveled to the University of Central Arkansas and photocopied them for us. There were fifteen notebooks filled with Martha’s tiny handwriting, words she’d taken down as Harold dictated to her. In transcribing them, we were struck not only by their historical importance but also by how lucid and insightful they were and how readily they lent themselves to being published as a book.

AT FIRST I PLANNED to publish only the diaries, and in the summer of 2000 I contacted the Shermans’ younger daughter, Marcia, to inform her of my intentions. I hoped, too, that she and her sister, Mary, might be able to fill in gaps and provide information that would be helpful in understanding the diaries more fully. In March 2001 Marcia invited me to her home in Arkansas—the same home that Harold and Martha had shared for forty years after leaving Chicago—and we spent ten days together.

Marcia revealed that Harry Loose’s letters to her parents, written from February 1941 until Loose’s death in November 1943, were still in her possession; that she and Mary had not yet decided if they would ever release them to the public. We spent a week reading them aloud to each other, and in the end the sisters agreed to allow me to include them in this series of books, with the request that I omit certain passages of a personal, family nature.

In the Sherman Collection at the University of Central Arkansas, I located Harold’s matching correspondence to the Loose letters and other gap-filling material. Going through Harold’s papers I discovered what an interesting life the Shermans had led both before and after the Chicago years, that they had known and entertained some of the most progressive and creative people of their day. The introductory chapter I had planned to write for the diaries, as well as the epilogue, grew in size and scope. It became clear, by examining Harold’s own works, that he had for the most part already written his own story; that by piecing together his first-person sketches and anecdotes, and interspersing them with letters and other material, a good biographical study would emerge, which would give the reader more insight into what had shaped him when he arrived at 533.

On a second visit to the archives, in March 2002, I collected the Harold-Martha correspondence and Harold’s other letters to and from writers and producers in New York and Hollywood. During that same visit Marcia shared the ARA messages with me. In reading through this new access of information, I became more aware of the idealism and ambition that drove Harold through his various struggles and successes.

November 2010: Because of the large amount of added material, it has become necessary to divide the work into more than the five volumes originally planned. Volume One begins with Harold’s small-town boyhood in the early 1900s and ends in the spring of 1942, just as he and Martha are about to move to Chicago. Volume Two documents the Shermans’ arrival in Chicago, the outbreak of the “Sherman rebellion” in the fall of 1942, and the Sherman-Loose correspondence that took place during that time. Volume Three records Forum activity in 1943, in the aftermath of the controversy, as well as the death of Harry Loose. Volume Four consists of diaries of their remaining Forum years, ending in 1947. Volume Five comprises correspondence from 1947-1955. Volume Six, covering 1955-1969 is currently in development. Volume Seven, detailing Urantia developments from 1969 to the time of Harold Sherman's death in 1987 and  up to the split between the Foundation and the Brotherhood in 1989 will follow. 

 
A sample page from the diaries


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