Celestial Seasonings is America’s #1 tea manufacturer. Based in Boulder, CO they make every kind of herbal tea you can think of and rake in about $100 million each year. Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime Tea is the #1 bestselling specialty tea of all time. The iconic drink is packaged with a cute bedtime bear on the box and like all Celestial Seasonings’ tea, includes an “inspirational” message on the tea tag. Celestial Seasonings attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year on their tea tour and the company’s HQ is considered one of the top free travel destinations in the U.S..
According to their website, the company was founded in 1969 by a group of hikers and featured herbs hand-picked by founder Mo Seigel in the Rocky Mountains. Mo Seigel went on to become the company’s president until a merger with Kraft. After a corporate buy back, Seigel returned from retirement for over a decade to again lead the company.
In 2015, writer Megan Giller broke the story about a niche religious text Mo Seigal (and another early Celestial Seasonsings employee, John Hay) follows. A mysterious 2,095 page book called The Urantia Book appeared in Chicago sometime between 1924-1955. Since 1955, the book has been published by The Urantia Foundation, which lists Mo Seigel as it’s president. The foundation exists to publish The Urantia book and ensure the ideas in the book are spread. According to The Urantia Foundation’s website, Seigel discovered The Urantia Book the same year he founded Celestial Seasonings, during the summer of love.
What’s so bad about The Urantia Book?
For starters, the book claims to be a transmission of extraterrestrial wisdom which obscures the fact that it was written by a regular human person with fallible, dated ideas about science and philosophy, among other things. This is a big red flag. The book also self-identifies followers as cult members, though that language is shied away from in modern years. Additionally, the scientific claims in the book do not reflect any kind of special wisdom removed from the time and place the book was written. The scientific ideas of The Urantia Book are simply those held by the author and are typical of someone in his position in the early 1900s.
The book was probably written by a Chicago physician and student of Freud named William Sadler who had already been involved in other cults. Sadler claims the content of the book actually came from a neighbor who was in an unconscious hypnotic state while he gave the statements in the book. Sadler claimed the man was being channelled by aliens. Curiously, Sadler had previously written a book debunking popular paranormal claims. Later on, parts of The Urantia Book were discovered to be plagiarized from other texts.
Sadler was interested in race eugenics, a field of study that seeks to remove “inferior” kinds of people from the gene pool. One of Sadler’s favorite books before The Urantia Book was Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race which says that nordic people are the “ideal” human race and “getting rid of” other races would “enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals, and insane asylums.” “Racial hygiene” theories like this would go on to rise in popularity, culminating with the Nazi party in Germany and the holocaust.
Sadler’s wife (also a physician) once wrote that eugenics would eliminate “at least 90 percent of crime, insanity, feeblemindedness, moronism, and abnormal sexuality, not to mention many other forms of defectiveness and degeneracy. Thus, within a century, our asylums, prisons, and state hospitals would be largely emptied of their present victims of human woe and misery.”
The Urantia book claims that there are six human races: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo. The indigo race is Black people and the book argues it is the most inferior race. The “superior race” according to the book, are fair-skinned and blue-eyed. The Urantia Book argues for eugenics as a way to remedy the existence of “inferior races” which they say are responsible for the existence of disease.
In an article Mo Siegel co-authored for The Urantia Foundation called “The Twenty Most-Asked Questions”, he says that illness is caused by evil, a belief he shares with the confirmed groomer cult the Duggars belong to. He says that we will never cure disease because, “[Hu]mankind loses about as much progress as it makes by ignoring eugenics.”
What kind of influence has this cult had on Celestial Seasonings tea?
The company was co-founded by and under the leadership of Urantia Foundation president, Mo Seigel, for decades. The official story of the company’s name is that it was a “flower name” for one of the other founders, however I think it alludes to the contents of The Urantia Book, which claims to be authored by “celestial beings”. So “celestial seasonings” may literally just refer to sprinkles of wisdom from aliens. Totally normal.
“In fact, the text was a major reason he decided to found Celestial Seasonings.
“After studying the teachings in The Urantia Book, I knew that it would feel selfish and wasteful to simply focus on material success,” he said. “So, as a young man, when I began thinking of what I could do to make a living, I immediately turned to the health food industry … The ideas [in The Urantia Book] were the inspiration for the uplifting quotes we print on the side of our tea boxes and on our teabag tags!”
“Mo and John used it as a guiding principal and continually quoted from The Urantia Book,” Caroline MacDougall, the company’s fifth employee and the current founder and CEO of Teecino told Van Winkle’s. At staff meetings they would even use quotes to bolster their arguments. “It was a guide for making sure of the moral values that underlay the company at that time,” she added.”
So is Celestial Seasonings a shady company?
It’s hard to say. The Urantia Book was so influential in the early company culture that its ideas might still be baked into the company. Mo Siegel retired from Celestial Seasonings almost two decades ago and there is no evidence that the company and The Urantia book or The Urantia Foundation are still linked. The best case scenario is that your sleepytime tea comes with an “inspirational” tea tag that was derived from a racist eugenics book written by aliens. Do with that information what you will.