In 1970, Mo Siegel co- founded Celestial Seasonings Tea Company with only $500 of capital. Mo and his friends harvested the first two years of tea production by combing the mountains of Colorado in search of exotic herb teas growing wild. He led the company to a successful acquisition by Kraft, Inc., in 1984 and left the company in 1986. Two years later, he returned to the Celestial Seasonings Board of Directors when the company became independent by buying itself back from Kraft. In 1991, Mo once again became chairman and CEO and then took the company public. In 2000, he oversaw the merger of Celestial with The Hain Food Group to become the Hain Celestial Group. For two years Mo stayed to oversee the transition between the companies. Mo retired in September 2002 to begin a new era in his life. Today he serves on numerous corporate boards of directors, actively invests, travels, climbs the "fourteeners," the 55 Colorado peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in height, and loves being a dad and grandpa.
I am a Colorado country boy, chiseled out of the snow and rock of these mountains. The year I was born, my father, who was raised in Chicago , moved our family to a dairy ranch on the side of a 9,000-foot-mountain pass in Colorado . The stormy weather at the ranch proved too harsh for the cattle, so that spring my father moved to us to Palmer Lake, a little mountain town at an elevation of just over 7000 feet— still high by most standards—where I spent my childhood.
When I was two years old, my mother was killed by a drunk driver, leaving my traumatized father to raise three young children alone. Although my father, a self-styled Jewish John Wayne, was deeply religious, he had always led an unconventional spiritual life. He'd married my mother, although she was a Protestant, and felt closest to God while riding horses in the mountains; he prayed by the rivers and spent little time in formal religious environments. At home his religious word stood supreme, at least in his presence. But like my dad and his father before him, I grew up curious about religion, unconventional in my ideas, and in quest of deeper spiritual meaning. As a consequence—and to the terrible annoyance of my dad—I asked a lot of questions about God and religion. During my formative years I was especially troubled by the apparent conflict between science and religion over the subject of evolution.
I spent my last two years of high school living at a Catholic monastery and attending their college prep school. I entered the monastery school as a confused agnostic and graduated as a searching Christian. At the monastery, one of the priests introduced me to the teachings of the brilliant Catholic theologian, Teilhard de Chardin. Chardin's elegant writing on the relationship between religion and science propelled me to read a broad array of books on evolution. Before long, Charles Darwin became one of my life heroes, and his theories laid the foundation for my thinking on the subject. While searching bookstores for books on evolution, I also scoured the religion sections. I spent a number of years reading a wide range of religious books at an almost frenetic pace, ranging from Norman Vincent Peale to Taoism. The more I read on religion and science, the more I was convinced that science reflected the divine nature of God, rather than contradicting it. I wanted to understand how the world was the way it was. The idea that the universe was created in six days, or even 6,000 years, was something that wasn't working for me. I was rapidly moving toward centrist Christianity with a complete endorsement of scientific fact.
It was in 1969 at age 19 that I first encountered The Urantia Book. A number of friends had praised its teachings on evolution, and that Christmas a girlfriend gave it to me. I was surprised at its daunting size: 2,097 pages long. What confounded me the most was that the book contained 875 pages on the life and teachings of Jesus, including the missing years of his life—from age one to twelve and then from age thirteen to approximately thirty—not chronicled in the Bible. How strange and intriguing, I thought. Dinosaurs and Jesus all in one text. I didn't read it right away; instead, I lent it to a friend. But over the course of the next few months, people kept telling me about The Urantia Book. So late one night, after hearing, "You really have to read this book," for what seemed like the hundredth time, I knocked on my friend's door and told him, "I need my book back." For the next year, I was absorbed in reading it—and I've been reading it ever since. Even today, I still host a weekly Urantia Book study group at my home.
Initially, I found the Foreword to The Urantia Book utterly confusing, but I kept reading anyway. What followed was a fascinating intellectual and spiritual adventure that shook up everything I thought I knew. The first two parts of the book describe God, the Trinity, the organization and structure of the universe, life on other worlds, life after death, angels and other personalities, and Heaven. When I read Part Three, I felt as though I'd won the lottery. This section deals with the origin and history of our world, starting from the origin of our sun over six billion years ago—when it spun out of the disintegrating Andronover Nebula— and ending with the birth of Jesus. From ice ages to saber tooth tigers; from the first human family to the evolution of modern government; from the story of Adam and Eve to the birth of prayer-- The Urantia Book presented a logical story of physical and social evolution. It was the bridge between science and religion that I had been searching for, and I was finally at peace with the subject that had consumed me for years.
The fourth section of the book recounts the magnificent life and teachings of Jesus. Before I read The Urantia Book, I loved the story of Jesus in the New Testament, but I had always felt disappointed that it only covered a few years of his life. I wanted to know his entire life story and have it fit into a bigger context. Being born to a Christian mother, raised by a non-conformist Jewish father, and having spent two years in a Catholic monastery, my smorgasbord of religious education had taught me to question everything. How did the idea that Jesus was the only son of God relate to Moses, Buddha and other prophets? And if you were born in India and had never heard of Jesus, would you really go to "hell?" When I read the section in The Urantia Book about Jesus, I was profoundly moved: Jesus—both the human being and the Son of God—came alive in the most superbly written biographical literature that I have ever come across. In addition to reframing Jesus for me, it made me far more respectful and appreciative of my childhood training in both Judaism and Christianity.
Simply put, Part Four transformed my life from one of doubt to one of faith, from one of insecurity to one of trust in God—with Jesus as the lens in which God becomes visible. As a spiritual adventurer, I was thrilled that the Jesus of The Urantia Book built upon the Bible, and then took me a hundred miles further.
The Urantia Book changed three major things inside me. First, it made me examine my values and commit myself to doing something worthwhile with my life. After college, studying and peace marches were replaced by the ordinary tasks of living: making money and raising a family. After studying the teachings in The Urantia Book, I knew that it would feel selfish and wasteful to simply focus on material success. 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. I was adamant that whatever product or service I sold should be healthy and make a positive difference in people's quality of life.
Growing up in Colorado , I had developed a love for hiking and spending time in the mountains. Not long after I read The Urantia Book, I decided to start collecting the herbs that grew wild in the canyons and valleys of the mountains around Boulder . With the help of friends, I collected and dried 500 pounds of my first blend, called Mo's 36 Herb Tea®. It was packaged in hand-sewn muslin bags and sold to a local health food store. This was the start of Celestial Seasonings Teas, which today is the largest manufacturer and marketer of specialty teas in the North America .
Like all business people, I have had to make choices every step of the way. My materialistic side could easily have hardened me, forming me into one tough businessman. But the ideals I internalized from The Urantia Book kept pushing me to choose good over greed and to care about the people I worked with as well as the people who bought our products. In fact, those ideas were the inspiration for the uplifting quotes we print on the side of our tea boxes and on our teabag tags!
The second thing the book for me did was instill the importance of family. One line in the book reads, "The family is man's greatest purely human achievement." Everything I have done since reading The Urantia Book— from my career to my mountain-climbing— has been influenced by my decision to put my family first. I vividly remember the moment when I first understood the choices this commitment required. It was December 24th. I was 26 years old and was sitting in the beautifully appointed office of the first billionaire I'd ever met. It was an important meeting: the billionaire and another executive in the company—also extremely wealthy—were talking to me about investing in Celestial Seasonings. Although the offices were emptying as employees departed to celebrate Christmas Eve, these two men just wanted to talk to me. It was snowing like crazy and I realized I might get stranded at the airport if I stayed much longer. I thought, "I'm going to miss Christmas with my wife and three young children…chasing after money!"
After a while, when the building was empty except for us, I asked one of the men where he was spending Christmas and what he was doing that night. He broke down and told me of his many divorces and how his children hated him. It turned out that he had nowhere to go. The billionaire also had been through multiple divorces and had no one waiting for him at home. They were hanging around their luxurious offices, entertaining a 26-year-old kid—because they didn't have anywhere better to go. The combination of the snowstorm, the two lonely men in that super-rich office and the quote in The Urantia Book about human achievement and family hit me hard. I asked myself, What's important in life?
The answer was obvious. I stood up and said, "Excuse me, I've got to catch a plane." I left them, those two sad older men, and went home to spend the holiday with my wife and kids.
The third and most valuable thing that The Urantia Book did for me was to make God real. I once saw a sign on the inside of a friend's front door that said, "God is knocking on the door; let's see whose face he's wearing this time." I loved that idea, but it wasn't yet my experience. Finding God on an everyday basis—and in everyone I met— seemed an almost impossible task for me. After reading and absorbing The Urantia Book's specific and detailed teachings about the real fragment of God that dwells within all of us, I slowly grew to trust that a very real part of God has been implanted in our minds to guide our decisions toward God. This part of God—the still small voice of Christianity and Judaism, the Atman of Hinduism and the Tao of Taoism—lives with us in our joys and our sufferings. Experiencing God as something real and tangible inside of me and inside of you, and not just some kind of wispy spirit, was pivotal for me. This reality has shaped every single day of my life since that time.
When I first heard people discussing The Urantia Book, they said it was a revelation, written not by human beings, but by angels, which I thought was just the goofiest thing I'd ever heard. I ended up reading it in spite of all that. After I read it, I was not concerned about who had written it or how it had been written because it was so powerful. I'd wanted bold; I found bold. I'd wanted spiritual adventure and I was on the ride of my life. I'd wanted truth and the book was loaded with it. Since that time, I have looked into it deeply and I cannot find any author associated with the book. But that is not the point, because I love what it says and I'm a much better person because of its teachings. I've learned not to pick fights with the books I read—I'm appreciative and I grow from them.