ONE SUMMER BETWEEN 1906 and 1911, there was a remarkable encounter involving two couples. One of the couples was Dr. William Sadler and his wife, Dr. Lena Sadler; the identity of the other couple is not known. The event would completely alter the lives of all four individuals, and would have implications that are still not fully grasped over a century later.
The exact date and nature of the meeting of the two couples has been an object of much discussion. The 1911 date of this episode can be documented by two references from the Appendix in The Mind at Mischief. Dr. Sadler simply states that he was brought into contact with this case in the “summer of 1911.” He also states: “Eighteen years of study” had taken place at the time of publishing The Mind at Mischief, which occurred in 1929, again placing the meeting at 1911. Some researchers have called this a printing error, claiming that Dr. Sadler came into contact with the so-called “sleeping subject” as early as 1906. It hardly seems likely that two printing errors were made.
A date of 1908 is suggested by other researchers, and is supported by evidence that the Sadlers, while they were waiting for a new residence to be prepared, lived in a temporary apartment in La Grange, Illinois, during the spring and summer of 1908. This interim residence situation seems to have occurred only once, and fits the version of Dr. Sadler’s description of the seminal events that was disclosed by author Harold Sherman. Sherman’s information is based upon a conversation with Dr. Sadler that took place in 1942, in which Sadler stated the first encounter with the sleeping subject had been about “thirty-five years ago,” more closely matching the earlier dates.
Long and tedious efforts have been made to establish the date of the Sadlers’ first contact with the sleeping subject based upon records of their various residences. It may have been that they met the sleeping subject in 1906 or 1908 — we cannot be sure. Some believe Dr. Sadler intentionally created confusion about the date to protect the identity of his patient, the individual who would become known as the sleeping subject. It is also possible that in the early days the sleeping subject appeared to be nothing more than a patient with some kind of a sleeping disorder. As we shall see, the sessions with the sleeping subject took a remarkable and baffling turn somewhat later in the process.
Some writers, with agendas to discredit the authenticity of the Papers, have detailed biographical information on Dr. Sadler and others to set the stage for one claim or another. In this history, we are less interested in establishing factual dates and exhausting the biographical backgrounds of the participants than we are in following the authentic historic development of the Revelation.
It is important to relate here that all the people who were involved in the early stages of the contact (and all subsequent stages) were quite ordinary human beings. Notwithstanding Dr. Sadler’s status as a psychiatrist and prolific writer in his field, both he and his wife were simply ordinary folks with foibles and strengths just like the rest of us. To my knowledge, no one associated with the Urantia Movement has demonstrated any special spiritual status or unique “power.” In the early sessions, we can know for certain that only Dr. Sadler, Dr. Lena, the sleeping subject and his wife were involved. Dr. Sadler’s son, Bill Sadler, Jr., was not involved in the early contacts, he was only three years old in 1911.
Dr. Sadler estimates in the Appendix ofThe Mind at Mischief that about 250 night sessions with the sleeping subject had taken place by 1929. We have only the testimony of Dr. Sadler about the events that took place prior to the commencement of the Forum and the enlargement of the Contact Commission in the early twenties. We will see that the activities were significantly altered as other personalities became involved. Although Sadler has written virtually nothing about the primal events that set the Revelation into motion, Meredith Sprunger supplies a great deal of the information that he had personally learned from Sadler.
Less reliable information about the seminal events has been provided by Harold Sherman, (a writer and a self-proclaimed psychic) who was generally hostile to the Urantia Papers. Even so, Sherman and his wife were reporters, and they claimed to have a candid interview with Dr. Sadler in August of 1942, in which he described the early episodes. They said they wrote their recollections down immediately after hearing the story.
Generally, what Sherman wrote in his book,How to Know What to Believe, is self-serving and configured to support his own views of psychic phenomena. However, in the particular segment of his book referring to Dr. Sadler’s story of the early contacts, a great deal of his information correlates with that of Dr. Sprunger and other early Urantians. Also in support of this portion of Sherman’s narrative are the comments of Carolyn Kendall, who briefly worked for Dr. Sadler as a receptionist and who has been closely associated with Urantia Foundation. Carolyn states that when she was “almost 19 years of age” (in 1951), Dr. Sadler related to her the story of the sleeping subject. Carolyn recalls that it was “essentially the same as in Sherman’s book.”
If, for the sake of argument, we split the difference and use the 1908 date, picture a 33-year old William Sadler, his wife Lena, and a newborn Bill Sadler, Jr., living in a suburb of old Chicago, Illinois. They were temporarily housed in a furnished apartment, waiting for their new residence to be prepared. We know that some accounts relate that late one summer evening there was a knock on the door. Evidently another tenant, a lady directly beneath their apartment, had learned that they were doctors.
“Will you come downstairs with me?” she asked. “Something has happened to my husband. He’s gone to sleep, he is breathing very strangely, and I can’t wake him up.”
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