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 The Grimsley WW III "Channeling" Episode

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Fecha de inscripción : 10/01/2009
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MensajeTema: The Grimsley WW III "Channeling" Episode   Dom Mayo 20, 2012 5:50 pm

How was opened the channeling Pandora's box of error

Part of Chapter 10 - A History of The Urantia Papers by Larry Mullins with Dr. Meredith Justin Sprunger

The Grimsley WW III "channeling" episode

This is a painful, perhaps the most painful, series of events in the history of the Urantia Papers. To some, at first blush, it seems to be a political issue, not directly related to the history of the Urantia Papers. However, as we began to probe this "off-limits" territory, and open some of the doors that have been hitherto sealed, it became evident that the Grimsley episode is closely tied to the events described in Chapter Nine that had eventually led to the compromising of the Declaration of Trust and the original text of The Urantia Book. The events surrounding the Grimsley story may explain why the question of exactly what happened to the original text has so long been cloaked in mystery. Further, the ramifications of what happened during the Grimsley crisis affect the welfare of the Revelation to this day, as we shall see. Since this is a very sensitive and glossed-over issue, I have relied almost totally upon documentation and sources that are very close to the Foundation's viewpoints. I have avoided speculation as much as possible and let the facts and the protagonists speak for themselves. I have treated this episode at some length because, as Hoite Caston, a former Trustee, wrote about the Grimsley episode: "This event is too big to simply sweep under the rug. It would leave a lump so large we would soon be tripping over it again." 7 Indeed, like the dynamics that drove the changes in the second printing, I believe the Grimsley episode cannot remain a lump comfortably tucked away under a cosmetic rug of secrecy.

Vern Bennom Grimsley, Martin Myers' fellow fraternity brother, had become the golden boy of the Urantia Movement by the nineteen-eighties. Grimsley had established himself as a prominent insider in both Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood. Mr. Grimsley had become quite close to Christy, and was a highly regarded speaker at Urantia conferences. Grimsley established the Family of God Foundation (FOG) as a not for profit spiritual outreach organization in 1967. He was granted "special agent" status by Urantia Foundation in 1971. I heard his wonderfully orchestrated speech at a Urantia International Conference in Snowmass in 1981. He ended his speech with a plea for unity in the movement and raced off the platform. The music of bagpipes filled the convention tent. Vern stood in the crowd in mock exhaustion, apparently barely able to acknowledge the acclaim, while nearly a thousand Urantians rose to their feet, applauding and cheering. Vern Bennom Grimsley's star never shined brighter.

The Kendalls' account of the Grimsley crisis states that in January of 1983, about eight months after Christy's memorial service, Vern Grimsley called Martin Myers and the Kendalls with a stunning announcement. He said that on December 16, 1982, he had begun receiving "messages" from the "Midwayers" in the form of audible statements. He said he had been instructed to purchase a 25-acre property in Clayton, California, to house the approximately 40-member staff of the Family of God organization. Myers immediately flew to California where he joined the Castons and Keelers for an advance tour of the property. 8

One might wonder why such bizarre "messages" were not simply rejected out of hand. Some have said it was because Vern's credibility and "charisma" were so convincing. However, if one accepts Thomas Kendall's account of Myers' support of Christy's messages, we might surmise that Trustee Myers (at least at first) was very open to the possibility that they were valid. Keeler and Caston definitely supported the "messages" at first. Early in the crisis Dr. Paul Knott interviewed Vern Grimsley. Vern declared that Christy had told him he was a Destiny Reservist. Dr. Knott asked how Christy would know this. Vern replied: "I don't know, but I think she got messages the same way I got messages." Dr. Knott subsequently interviewed several people, (he does not disclose who) but none conceded that they knew of any statement by Christy that she had received "messages" after 1955. 9 The Kendalls both insist otherwise.

In February of 1983 Grimsley announced a new "message:" "The time has not arrived to publicize the Book." The Kendalls' account says that Martin stated on February 26 that Vern should be invited to attend the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood that evening, and declared: "They'll really take a strong stand against publicity when they hear about Vern's experiences." In May of 1983, Martin's father died and Martin invited Vern to conduct the Kansas memorial service. On September 4, 1983, seven months after he had learned of the first Grimsley message, Myers gave a speech at a media conference in Los Angeles. He included a long and glowing tribute to Vern and his organization:

". . . at this time it is appropriate to make special mention of another group... the Family of God Foundation. Under the tireless, indefatigable leadership of Vern Bennom Grimsley. . . the Family of God Foundation has defined new levels of effective planetary service . . . Their unflinching loyalty to the purposes and goals of Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood has materially aided in the inauguration of a new age on Urantia . . . one can anticipate from the signs on the horizon that their real work is only beginning." 10

About this time, the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood began discussing the topic of publishing The Urantia Book as a paperback. Councilor Harry McMullan brought a mock-up in three volumes, leading some people to believe he was proposing splitting up the book. In truth, the idea of publishing the Jesus Papers separately had long been discussed among Urantians. Some General Councilors believed a separate publication of the Jesus Papers, as a new and enlarged gospel of Jesus, would reach a great number of Christians who might not be immediately attracted to the full version of The Urantia Book. (Recall that Meredith Sprunger was led to read the entire book after he read the Jesus Papers.) Other Councilors, apparently unaware that the original text had already been compromised, believed such an action would somehow endanger what the Foundation now euphemistically termed the "inviolate text."

In the midst of this Brotherhood discussion, the issue of channeling -- and the question of continued special celestial guidance -- abruptly emerged from the shadows of the inner circle. On September 19, 1983, yet another "message" supportive of Urantia Foundation's policies supposedly came to Mr. Grimsley while he was taking a bath, and it was very clear: "Don't split up the Book." 11 This "message" was relayed personally by Vern to the Executive Committee of the Brotherhood, and soon it was being leaked to many bewildered readers. The leaders on the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood were strongly influenced by these messages with a few notable exceptions. Especially active in resisting them was Councilor Harry McMullan who, along with Berkeley Elliott, represented the Oklahoma Society on the Council and urged fellow Councilors not to docilely accept the Grimsley admonitions as Midwayer directives.

However, a considerable number of leaders in the power structures of the Brotherhood and Foundation bought into Mr. Grimsley's "messages." It was pointed out by some of these leaders that Christy herself was said to have once stated that Vern Grimsley was a member of the "Reserve Corps of Destiny." Some recalled that in Vern's funeral oration for his dear friend Christy, he had revealed that she had, in effect, "commissioned" him to carry on her work. Vern had declared in his memorial speech that among the 92-year old Christy's final requests was an urgent entreaty to protect and preserve the Revelation with "especial attention to the copyright and registered marks." Then Grimsley had made a strong appeal for unity at the memorial service:

"Christy gave me clear and explicit instructions to deliver this message of spiritual unity and spiritual priorities, not only at her memorial here today, but throughout the Urantia movement in the future. And I pledged to her: `This I shall do until I die.' She directed that I should commission us all to rededicate our lives to God . . . and to labor valiantly for the spiritual unification of the Urantia movement." 12

Numerous Urantian leaders, especially those who believed Christy had received special celestial "guidance," declared that Vern's report clearly indicated that Christy's "mantle" had been passed to Vern Bennom Grimsley. However, it might be noted that Christy had confined her "messages," and her alleged status as a "contact personality" to a small inner circle. Grimsley was eventually to boldly go public, and this may have been his undoing within the inner power structure. Especially when his messages took a grim and chilling new turn.

On October 6, Grimsley was supposedly "told" by the anonymous voices to: "Prepare for World War III." 13 Grimsley cautioned of world-wide upheavals, and the Family of God began storing food and supplies. By mid-October Grimsley mailed over 100 letters to Urantian "leaders" warning them of impending global war and urging them to visit him to discuss the situation. Vern's doomsday predictions shook the Urantia community. Supported by additional "messages," he urged that key Foundation files and Book inventories be transferred to his fortified headquarters in Clayton, for their safety and security. On October 30, 1983, after ten years, a majority of Urantia Foundation Trustees voted to revoke Vern Grimsley's "special agent" status. Thomas Kendall refused to sign the notification letter. Near the end of the month, a concerned Hoite Caston visited Vern. Caston, Myers and Keeler were now in very tight communication, and to many Urantians their actions seemed orchestrated toward the common purposes of distancing themselves from Vern and removing Thomas Kendall, President of Urantia Foundation -- Grimsley's most prestigious supporter. The fraternity brothers seemed especially concerned that Vern had elected to go directly to the Urantia Community with his doomsday "message."

Fear gripped the Urantia Community, and many leaders remained undecided about the "messages." Meredith Sprunger had energetically resisted the apocalyptic tide of fear from the beginning and openly declared that Grimsley's messages were delusional. He traveled to Oklahoma City to soothe the fear there, and we benefited from his cool head, professional knowledge, and spiritual wisdom. In Boulder, Clyde Bedell urged readers to remain calm, and he deplored the fact that Brotherhood "leaders" had begun building fallout shelters and "running around like chickens with their heads cut off." On October 27, 1983, Morris "Mo" Siegel, the National Extension Representative of Grimsley's Family of God (FOG) organization, took the floor after a Boulder study group. This future Trustee held court for a half-hour, warning the already frightened Urantians about the predicted World War III nuclear holocaust and the dreadful aftermath that would follow. Siegel explained that at considerable cost he had built and outfitted a personal fallout shelter for his family, and he cautioned that an attack could come without warning.

Then, Clyde took the floor. Among other things he said:

"If there are strange voices and groanings in the night for some Urantians and the sound of eerie warnings in some ears, they may possibly be from our friends `upstairs' . . . or they may be, and in my opinion most likely are, the jumbled echoes, fears, doubts and confusions - I hope - that are born of dual loyalties, loyalties to our spiritually immature human state, and our burgeoning - I hope - but incomplete loyalties to Jesus and to the Father . . . Highly activist Urantians who are loyal to official [Urantian] policies in the light of the Book's demands for loyalty above all else to our universe rulers, put a `severe strain on the soul . . . the human mind does not well stand the conflict of double allegiance.' . . . Now, if war does not come, we will be, not the nearly `secret society' we have thus far been due to 533's repressive policies, but a discredited laughing stock." 14

On Wednesday, November 16, 1983, Vern gave instructions to Richard Keeler, his largest contributor and the Executive Investment Manager of Family of God, to liquidate the FOG account. Vern ordered that the money, which amounted to approximately $1,300,000, be sent to him immediately. Grimsley informed Keeler that the disembodied "voices" had told him it was "Red Alert," and World War III was going to begin the weekend of November 18-20. He told Keeler he wanted to convert the money into gold for the coming catastrophe. The money was wired the next day. 15 On the same day that Vern called Keeler, Hoite Caston sent the "first version" of what he called a "report" to Grimsley by Express Mail, asking for his "feedback." The document, which had obviously been prepared earlier for use at a timely moment, strongly criticized Grimsley and exposed many fallacies in his claims, while presenting Martin Myers as completely negative about Vern's messages. On the same day that Caston mailed a copy to Vern requesting feedback, he sent copies of the negative report to all the members of the Brotherhood Executive Committee to "help them" in their deliberations about Vern. 16 On Sunday, November 20th, after enjoying a safe weekend, Richard Keeler sent a hand-written resignation letter as the Investment Manager of the Family of God to Vern and Nancy Grimsley. In this letter multi-millionaire Keeler also informed the Grimsleys he had bequeathed his entire personal wealth to FOG, but now the organization would be stricken from his will. 17 (See Appendix B.)

Meanwhile, in the inner power-structure, fraternity brother Myers began to consolidate an anti-message stand. He declared in confidential discussions that he was concerned with public perception: "I don't want this movement to become known as a doomsday group and that it's being led by a guy who's claiming to get messages." The Kendalls defended Vern, stating that the previous messages had the ring of truth, curiously reasoning this because they had "confirmed what were already accepted policies." Tom Kendall then made a fateful decision. After conferring with the other Trustees, he decided he and his wife Carolyn should go to Clayton to personally discuss the matter with Vern. One Trustee cautioned him not to say he was representing Urantia Foundation, and Tom agreed to this admonition. 18

Thomas Kendall and Carolyn were but two of the leaders who had believed and supported Grimsley. Before his doomsday message, Vern had won over a great many leaders, including five future Trustees, two of whom, Gard Jameson and Philip Rolnick, were actually working for Vern in his Clayton headquarters as volunteers. Another future Trustee, Morris "Mo" Siegel, was listed in the Family of God brochure as a FOG "National Extension Representative" and was headquartered in Boulder. Yet another future Trustee, Richard Keeler, was "Executive Investment Financial Manager" for FOG. However, Grimsley quickly began to lose support after it became obvious the "Red Alert" World War III "message" was clearly a dud. The persuasive efforts of Martin Myers helped undermine Grimsley's underpinnings. When the Kendalls returned from California, they discovered that Myers had been hard at work and the tide had, for them, disastrously reversed. By the time Tom Kendall had an insight about what had been going on behind the scenes, it was too late and he lamented:

"I began to realize that Martin believed that he, not I, should be president of the Board of Trustees . . . I suspected that he was waiting for a plausible excuse to have himself installed as president. The Vern Grimsley controversy presented the opportunity. I was served notice on December 31, 1983, that I was no longer president and steps to remove me from the board had begun."

Considering Martin Myers' original support for Vern and alleged long support for Christy's "messages," the charges against Kendall were most intriguing. Kendall was charged with being "subject to the influence of psychic phenomena" and that such phenomena "were in degradation of the teaching of The Urantia Book in that the Book urges the function of evolutionary wisdom and rational judgment as amplified by one's own spiritual experience in solving problems and challenges . . ." 19

Kendall disputed the charges, and reminded the Trustees that "the matter of how to deal with the French situation" in 1980 was "solved" through the Trustees' belief in a "message" Christy "received" and one that she (a Trustee Emeritus) and Martin (a Trustee) had brought to the attention of the other Trustees. 20

This appeal to logical consistency failed, and, after 20 years as a Trustee (and 10 years as President of the Foundation), Kendall was summarily humiliated and expelled, and Martin was soon elected the new president of Urantia Foundation. Myers eventually named as Trustees fraternity brothers Hoite Caston (June, 1986) and Richard Keeler (July, 1989). When asked later why he appointed these men as Trustees, since both had originally supported Vern, Martin replied that they were "rebellion-tested." 21 Ironically, in 1992 Keeler would succeed in turning Myers out of the presidency. (Patricia Mundelius, daughter of Bill Sadler, Jr., assumed the presidency after Martin was ousted, and would be eventually replaced by Richard Keeler, who had led the palace guard revolt against Martin). Myers sued Urantia Foundation in 1993 over his removal. The precise charges that had resulted in the removal of Martin Myers were never clarified.

Many Urantians had cause to recall Clyde Bedell's warnings about establishing a self-perpetuating oligarchy of five to direct Urantia Foundation.

When Grimsley's predicted outbreak of World War III failed to materialize on a specific date, the FOG movement quickly lost momentum and fizzled out, embarrassing several prominent leaders and leaving permanent scars. In June of 1984, Hoite Caston produced a final "report" of over 250 single-spaced pages plus appendixes regarding the affair. It had been edited by Richard Keeler. The final document was described by Nancy Grimsley as "defamatory" and containing "many instances of error, distortion and false representation." The massive "report" refuted virtually every aspect of Vern's activity, behavior, and character, and did not leave a blade of grass standing. It contained excerpts from the "messages" in which the supposed "celestial voices" made silly jokes and lewd comments. The repugnant content of some of these "messages" convinced virtually all the fence-sitters to abandon support of FOG. Nancy pleaded with Hoite not to distribute the document but to no avail. Notwithstanding the tabloid tone of much of Caston's work, the report contained much wisdom and is instructive about the danger of charismatic practices, especially channeling.

More than ever, after the World War III "channeling" fiasco, perhaps the best kept secret at 533 Diversey Parkway was Christy's "channeling" activities and the alteration of the original text. Evidently unaware of these practices, Caston made the following comment on page 237 of his report:

"Can the Urantia movement afford to have in leadership positions individuals that [sic] accept guidance from hallucinatory voices, visions, and other forms of psychic phenomena? In my opinion, this behavior would be highly questionable if the individuals themselves were experiencing the phenomena, but when the leaders are accepting and promulgating the unsubstantiated `contacts' and claims of another person, what does that say about their sense of judgment and responsibility?"

Christy's "channeling" activities were all the more confounding because one of the most quoted "admonitions" among Urantia Foundation's prized apocrypha warns against this very thing. Christy herself, as President of Urantia Brotherhood, used it in a letter to Urantia "leaders:"

"Many strange "-isms" and queer groups will seek to attach themselves to the Urantia Book and its far-flung influence. Our most trying experiences may well be with such groups who will so loudly proclaim their belief in the teachings of the Book and who persistently seek to attach themselves to the movement. Great wisdom will be required to protect the newly forming Brotherhood from the distorting and distraction influences of those multifarious groups and equally distracting and disturbing individuals, some well-intended and some sinister, who strive to become part of the authentic constituency of the Urantia Brotherhood."

Even so, there seems to be an irresistible attraction to such "influences." There is also an inexplicable ebb and flow of the tides and loyalties driving the Urantia Foundation oligarchy. After Hoite Caston and Dr. Thomas C. Burns resigned as Trustees, some Urantians were astounded as Urantia Foundation moved again to embrace Vern Bennom Grimsley's counsel. In November of 1999, Urantia Foundation posted a report on the internet that the new group of Trustees had traveled to California to meet at length with Mr. Grimsley. Three members of the new configuration of Trustees (Keeler, Siegel, and Jameson), had worked for FOG, and had given considerable financial support to FOG. It was not disclosed exactly what was discussed at the conference. However, after the meeting, Grimsley's services as a speech writer were employed by Urantia Foundation to prepare an address expressing the familiar Foundation theme of the "need for unity." The address, written almost entirely by Mr. Grimsley, was delivered by President Richard Keeler at the 1999 Fellowship Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Conflicts, confusion and litigation

Friction between Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood progressively increased when Martin Myers took over as President of Urantia Foundation. Thomas Kendall observed:

"The separation of the Foundation and Brotherhood has gradually eroded. The Foundation has increasingly adopted a proprietary attitude toward not only The Urantia Book, but the Brotherhood as well . . . by applying the hammer of marks management."

In October of 1989, Urantia Foundation President Martin Myers de-licensed Urantia Brotherhood; it was forbidden for Urantia Brotherhood to use the name "Urantia" and the three concentric circles -- the so-called "marks." Urantia Brotherhood was also ordered to change its name since it was told it could no longer use the word "Urantia." Urantia Brotherhood obediently became The Fellowship. (Years later the name was changed to The Urantia Book Fellowship). Nearly all of the existing Brotherhood Societies voted to stay with the original Brotherhood, now the "Fellowship." 22

Following this series of upheavals, a revival of the interest in channeling again rose among Urantia Book readers and has been yet another divisive factor in the movement. Many readers were astounded that, after the chaos that channeling had caused the movement in the Eighties, channeling activities would again gain momentum in the Nineties -- in some cases, replacing serious study groups, with "channeling" sessions, in which disembodied "celestial beings" began "speaking" through human "receivers" to credulous Urantians. Urantia Foundation, under Keeler, granted permission for channeled works to be published along with excerpts from the Urantia Papers. A "channeling" session was a feature of the Fellowship 1999 International Conference in which an alleged entity named "Ham" supposedly "spoke" through a human "receiver" and answered questions from the audience. While not opposing the rights of anyone to indulge in such activities on their own time, many experienced readers found the resurgence of "channeling" to be a wasteful and unfortunate diversion with no connection to the Urantia Papers. Some believe that "channeling" practices fly in the face of Dr. Sadler's warnings about such psychic phenomena. Some Urantians believe "channeling activities" by Christy and their acceptance as a reinforcement of organizational power have confused the readership about the role of psychic phenomena and have opened a Pandora's box of error.

As previously quoted, Dr. Sprunger opposed the channeling activities from their inception. Referring to the period of conflicts, litigation, and differing philosophical views on celestial guidance and contact, Meredith has noted philosophically:

"Most of us now realize that the Fifth Epochal Revelation has been launched on the troubled and turbulent seas of evolutionary struggle." 23
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