May 15, 2014

THE FORUM BEGINS

About 1923, on his way to the University of Kansas for a lecture on Gestalt psychology, Dr. William Sadler wrote a note to Bill Sadler, his son, who was fifteen and in high school at the time. Dr. Sadler suggested that it would be good to begin getting together with some of both Dr. Lena’s and Dr. Sadler’s friends and colleagues for tea and philosophic discussions on Sunday afternoons. (The Sadlers had moved to their spacious new residence at 533 Diversey Parkway the year before). He proposed that Bill talk over the idea with his mother. When Dr. Sadler returned to Chicago he discovered his wife had invited a group of about thirty friends for a three o’clock Sunday afternoon tea.

              The group was destined to become the “Forum,” and soon began to include interested individuals from all walks of life. ClydeBedell told me there was a brief screening process consisting of an interview with Dr. Sadler, and the early sessions were somewhat informal. Later, as the Urantia Papers were read, the meetings may have been rather tedious. The turnover of Forum members was great, and during its period of existence, a total of 486 members had come and gone. The final meeting of the Forum as such took place on May 31, 1942. In a 1983 interview, Clyde Bedell spoke of those early days. The year was 1924; Clyde was 26 years old. He had just returned to Chicago:

“I saw Lister Alwood . . . I had Sunday dinner at his home    . . . He asked me if I would like to go to a Forum meeting at the home of an eminent Chicago psychiatrist. I asked a few questions, and he said: ‘Well, Sadler is a fantastic speaker; he talks about all sorts of things. Discussion may go in any direction. But he’s a fascinating, interesting, brilliant man.’   . . . So that first Sunday I had dinner at Lister’s home and we went to Dr. Sadler’s Forum at 533 Diversey. It was extremely interesting. I have no idea what it was all about or what he talked about now . . .”

Clyde goes on to tell us that he asked Dr. Sadler’s permission to invite a woman to attend a session. He brought his future wife, Florence Evans, to the next meeting.

“Incidentally, I should mention the fact that shortly after I joined the Forum, Lister Alwood was through with the Forum . . . There was quite a little turnover. There were no limits on what could be discussed. I think a good many people in the very early Forum felt, years later, they had been circumstanced into it. If that is the case, what occurred before papers started coming . . . was of no moment. It’s a strange thing but             . . . many things which you think today we should have remembered we do not remember  . . . What year did the papers begin coming through? I don’t know.   If we had known that such a thing as an epochal revelation was coming through, we would have kept diaries . . .”

              As the Forum began to discuss various issues, Dr. Sadler was continuing his efforts to discover the source of the puzzling night manifestations of the sleeping subject. He and his wife had begun to work out various questions about the universe in advance, asking them verbally as opportunities arose.

Sadler decided to privately develop a series of especially difficult questions as a test. He memorized fifty-two specific questions (Dr. Sadler was noted for having a remarkable photographic memory) to see if these so-called “student visitors” could ascertain what was in his mind. It should be noted that according to Dr. Sprunger, Sadler did not believe that mental telepathy was possible.

Shortly after, in one of the nocturnal sessions with the subject, Dr. Sadler and Dr. Lena encountered a particularly “electrifying personality” who claimed to be from a distant planet. He greatly excited the doctors by his comments. As this personality seemed about to take leave, Dr. Sadler challenged him saying: “How can you prove you are who you say you are?” The entity replied: “I cannot prove — but you cannot prove that I am not.” He then stunned the doctor with this remark: “However, I have just received permission to answer forty-six of the fifty-two questions you have been holding in your mind.”

Lena spoke up in surprise, “Why Will, you have no such list of questions, do you?” Dr. Sadler was forced to admit, “Yes I do Lena, and fifty-two is the exact number.”

The astonishing personality then proceeded to answer the forty-six acceptable questions as promised.13 He then added a pointed admonition:

“If you only knew what you are in contact with you would not ask me such trivial questions. You would rather ask questions as might elicit answers of supreme value to the human race.”

April 30, 2014

Dr. and Lena Sadler are Baffled

When a strange voice came out of the sleeping subject, both doctor Sadler and doctor Lena thought they were simply observing a phenomena known as automatic speaking. This activity involves the subconscious mind, and can take place without the awareness of the patient.To verify this diagnosis, Dr. Sadler arranged for the subject to come to his office a few days after the remarkable occurrence. He was certain that he must explore the mind of the subject in order to discover the source of (what seemed to Dr. Sadler at the time) a phenomenon that was rooted in the sleeping subject’s subconscious. In cases of subconscious activity that apparently drives otherwise inexplicable behavior, the traditional tool of psychiatry is hypnosis. At Dr. Sadler’s request, the sleeping subject agreed to be hypnotized.

Once in the office, Dr. Sadler found it difficult to get the subject “under.” After finally achieving a hypnotized state in the subject (in this and subsequent hypnosis sessions), Dr. Sadler discerned that there was absolutely no subconscious awareness of the information that was discussed by the purported celestial visitor. This was most amazing, and quite bewildering. As time progressed other supposed visiting beings began to speak “through” the subject. Dr. Sadler remained confounded as to how the unusual and challenging material being disclosed could have its origin in the psyche of the patient. The quality, uniqueness and consistency of what was being reported impressed both of the doctors. Dr. Sadler and Dr. Lena were also perplexed in that the sleeping subject was indifferent to the process and the material that resulted from it. Although the wife of the sleeping subject was anxious about the procedure, the subject seemed to have little interest or concern about what had happened during his deep sleeping state.

Notwithstanding his bafflement, Dr. Sadler continued to be certain that he could find a “scientific answer” to the case. He began to consult with other scientists and doctors about the mysterious phenomena of the sleeping subject. As stated earlier, Howard Thurston and Sir Hubert Wilkens, experts in spiritualistic frauds and tricks, were called in. These and other specialists were unable to account for the strange behavior of the sleeping subject — and were equally intrigued and bewildered by the remarkable information coming from the nocturnal sessions with him.

In the meantime, life went on. The decade between 1911 and 1921 was to be one of the most turbulent and terrible in human history. The mighty Titanic slipped beneath the waves of the Atlantic in April of 1912, a stunning rebuke of the technology of the mortal beings who had defied nature to sink it. The material loss of the Titanic was widely communicated. But the corporate indifference of the White Star Line was quietly accepted and not reported by the news media of the day: the company docked the pay of the crew from the minute the ship sank. The bereaved widows received pay checks diminished even further since the cost of their husbands’ uniforms were deducted — a brief note explained that the uniforms were not turned in as required. Two years later the civilized world was at war. Even though it was all over by 1919, the seeds for World War II were to be sown in the aftermath of that first struggle. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the groundwork continued for a new age of religious living and spiritual discovery. In the early twenties, the effort to bring an epochal revelation to light the materialistic darkness of Urantia took a new turn.

April 7, 2014

“Something has Happened to My Husband”

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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