Searching for The Living Temple 

When I began my research into Dr. John Harvey Kellogg my major professor joked (or so I thought at the time) that by the end of my dissertation I would have my very own archive of documents and primary sources. So far I have approximately twenty-eight of Kellogg’s original works, and some primary documents from a family archive. What I thought was a joke has indeed become a reality. Many people have wondered how I have come by so many original books and the answer is simple…eBay. It is amazing to me how many primary sources are for sale on eBay. All of the books I have procured for my research came from there. Primary sources are not always available via this market however, and I still think it highly unusual that I was able to find what I have. The large amount of Kellogg books available is no doubt due to the wide circulation his work enjoyed and his proliferated authorship. There is one book however, that did not enjoy such popularity.


Cover of The Living Temple (author’s collection).

In 1903 the Battle Creek Sanitarium burned to the ground and funds were needed to rebuild the mammoth institution. To raise the necessary money Kellogg put together a book based on many of his previous texts with some new material included. The Living Temple, as it was titled, never saw publication. Wishing to have his work reviewed Kellogg pre-ordered about 300 copies to send to friends and peers. After this initial printing disaster struck again when the publishing house Kellogg used also burned to the ground, along with the plates for The Living Temple. At this point many leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who had looked at the book began to accuse Kellogg of propagating pantheistic ideas in its pages. The multitude of issues surrounding Kellogg and church leaders, a subject too convoluted to go into here, came to a head in 1907 when Kellogg was “disfellowshipped” from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The conflict between Kellogg and church leaders had little to due with pantheism and more with power and control, but that will be the subject of another post.

In the years leading up to the break with Adventism and beyond, The Living Temple became a “banned” book (for lack of a better word) in the Adventist denomination. Many people went so far as to suggest the book’s destruction via burning or simply to throw it in the trash. This, along with time, resulted in very few copies left in existence. Some have found their way into archives and museums, and a few still remain in private hands.

Given its importance as a work published at a pivotal moment in Kellogg’s career, and the controversy surrounding it, The Living Temple came to symbolize the Holy Grail of original sources for me. A copy once showed up on eBay at the beginning of my research, but I had not yet decided to fully base a dissertation around Kellogg nor did I have $1,500 to spend on such a source. I somewhat lamented that decision for the next three years as I searched for another copy. It seemed unlikely that I would ever see another private copy for sale, and that I would have to resign myself to a digital copy or one from the archives. However, as I now tell people, you can find anything on eBay. About a month ago I was doing another search for Kellogg works and found a copy of  The Living Temple for $700. At this point I had no problem spending the money on it, but I did not have the funds. History is never a solitary endeavor and my work is no exception. I was surprised and humbled by the amount of people willing to contribute to my research so that I could obtain this important book. It is a rare thing to go on a quest for the Holy Grail and to actually return with it, and it has already yielded names and places of individuals and institutions in Europe Kellogg had connections with. I am pleased to report that every now and then a search for treasure produces results.


Title Page of The Living Temple (author’s collection).


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