April 30, 2014
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 16, 2014
When a woman came to their door and announced that “something had happened to her husband,” The Sadlers sprang into action. They donned robes and slippers and followed the distraught woman to her apartment. In the bedroom they found a middle aged man lying on a bed. He was apparently sleeping, but his respiration seemed disturbed. He would take a couple of fast breaths and then stop breathing for an almost alarming interval. Dr. Sadler quickly took his pulse, and was surprised to find it normal. However, the depth of the subject’s sleep was quite profound. Dr. Sadler attempted various ways to awaken the man, but without success. Finally, there seemed nothing left to do but wait.
Nearly an hour went by. The man’s body made several rather violent movements during this period. Then, suddenly, he sat up and looked around. “Who are these people?” he asked his wife. She explained that they were doctors whom she had called from upstairs when she could not wake him. He exclaimed: “What? What has happened? Is something wrong?”
Dr. Sadler asked: “How do you feel?” “I feel fine,” the man replied. “What is it you have been dreaming about?” asked Dr. Sadler. “Why, nothing.” the man replied. “But you have been jumping all around the bed,” said Sadler. “Well, I don’t know anything about that,” the man replied. “I feel fine.”
After a bit of small talk, Dr. Sadler said: “Look, I believe it will be wise if you come in for a complete examination tomorrow morning. This is quite unusual, and we want to be on the safe side.” The man and his wife agreed.
The next day Dr. Sadler made the examination and found the gentleman to be in excellent physical condition. After thoroughly testing him, Sadler checked into the man’s family history. There was no record of insanity or of epilepsy. Dr. Sadler suggested that he would like to keep the patient under observation for a while, and the patient consented.
Several weeks passed. Then the wife called and informed the Sadlers that her husband was in the peculiar deep sleep again. The doctors responded, and discovered him to be in the same profound sleeping state as before. They attempted to rouse him, even sticking pins in him, but nothing worked. Fortunately the pulse remained normal during the strange breathing sequences and abnormal movements, so nothing appeared life-threatening about the extraordinary state. Then, he awoke as before, completely oblivious of any unusual behavior during his sleep. Both doctors were puzzled.
The phenomenon occurred several times by the fall of that year, when the Sadlers’ new residence was ready. The lease on the subject’s apartment was expiring at the same time. He and his wife elected to move so they could be near the Sadlers. It was at this new address that the peculiar “sleep” of the patient became considerably more remarkable and perplexing.
The First Contact
The Sadlers were soon called to the new residence of the subject. The customary procedure was followed, and the physicians sat by the bedside, observing and waiting for him to awaken. Lena Sadler noticed the subject was moistening his lips. “Perhaps he wants to say something. Perhaps we should ask a question,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
To the great astonishment of everyone, the subject spoke! But the voice was peculiar, not his normal voice. The voice identified itself as a student visitor on an observation mission from another planet!8 This “being” apparently was conversing through the sleeping subject by some means. Both doctors 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.
NEXT: A profound mystery begins to unfold.
March 18, 2014
Ideally, from a human philosophical perspective, Revelation is best served when evaluated upon its content, not upon some supposed miraculous origin. However, many people believe that a mysterious — or even seemingly “miraculous” — origin of revelatory material actually validates the contents of the material itself. Yet, in the case of the Urantia Papers, Dr. Sadler made great effort to avoid attaching some supernatural occurrence to explain their materialization. In point of fact, there is no authentic record I know of that either he or any member of the Contact Commission ever witnessed a supernatural event associated with the actual materialization of the text of the Urantia Papers. They attested to many events relative to the materialization of the text that they could not explain, but none claimed to have witnessed any of the materialization events. Even so, the Urantia Papers themselves tell us that if the human mind cannot fathom the true origin of a phenomenon, it will create an origin:
“Partial, incomplete, and evolving intellects would be helpless in the master universe, would be unable to form the first rational thought pattern, were it not for the innate ability of all mind, high or low, to form a universe frame in which to think. If mind cannot fathom conclusions, if it cannot penetrate to true origins, then will such mind unfailingly postulate conclusions and invent origins that it may have a means of logical thought within the frame of these mind-created postulates. And while such universe frames for creature thought are indispensable to rational intellectual operations, they are, without exception, erroneous to a greater or lesser degree.” [1260, par.2]
We will see that Dr. Sadler may have eventually authorized the preparation of a “History of the Urantia Movement” for this reason. Later, in private discussions with Dr. Sprunger, William Sadler would reiterate that he did not know how the materialization of the Papers was accomplished. Dr. Sadler also insisted that everything known about the materialization of the Urantia Papers can be found in various parts of the book.However, based upon these Urantia Book references and Dr. Sadler’s own experiences in relationship to the materializations, the colleagues were led to speculate upon the process, as we shall see.
Dr. Sprunger and his ministerial colleagues left Chicago with a much better idea of how the Urantia Papers came to be. It should be emphasized once more that the origins of the Urantia Papers have little relevance in assessing the truth and spiritual quality of their content. It is, however, an important area of research that was destined to be revisited. On October 6, 1958, Dr. Sprunger and the ministerial group met with Dr. Robert V. Moss, who was at the time Professor of New Testament Studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary and President of the United Church of Christ. The purpose of the South Bend meeting was to evaluate The Urantia Book. There was a lively and spirited discussion. Although Dr. Moss had not read the entire book, he remarked that the Biblical material in The Urantia Book was essentially in harmony with the best scholarship of the day, and that the book had many inspiring passages.
A week after the meeting, Dr. Moss wrote Dr. Sprunger and asked a most provocative question:
“It occurred to me that we did not deal with one basic question. As you know, Christianity is a historical religion and because of that the basis of revelation can be tested by scholarship. It seems extremely important that the source of the Urantia ‘revelations’ be set forth in any serious discussions of its claim. To say there is no historical basis for the “revelation” is to say that it differs greatly from the biblical understanding of the way in which God acts.”6
It is reasonable to conclude that an investigation into the origin of the Urantia Papers would lend a significant contribution to the evaluation of the text itself. Indeed, issues about the sequences and techniques of the origin remained. In the next decade, Dr. Sprunger would pursue these questions. He would have many conversations with Dr. Sadler as well as with two other members of the Contact Commission: Bill Sadler, Jr. and Emma Louise Christensen (Christy). He would also meet and develop associations with many Forum members.
Our own quest for answers begins in the early years of the twentieth century. It was a uniquely colorful period in world history. Matisse and Renoir were still painting. And, another aspiring artist named Adolf Hitler was attempting to sell his watercolors in Vienna. Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. Americans were still talking about two brothers named Orville and Wilbur Wright who successfully flew a heavier than air machine in 1903. Chicago was then the center of movie making, and Bill Harris has noted: “in the prairies just out of town someone first headed someone else off at the pass in cowboy pictures. They called it Chicago’s Golden Age. And in every quarter of the arts, from jazz to poetry, Chicago was clearly the place to be.”7 Chicago newspapermen like Carl Sandburg, Ben Hecht, and Ring Lardner were turning to more serious ideas — and America was sitting up and taking notice. H. L. Mencken wrote: “In Chicago, a spirit broods on the face of the waters.”8 It was in this remarkable city of Chicago, Illinois, that the intriguing story of the Urantia Papers was set into motion.
Next: “Something has happened to my husband”
March 5, 2014
When he met with Meredith Sprunger and several ministers, Dr. Sadler also explained that, in addition to the Contact Commission, there had been another, larger group associated with the Urantia Papers. This group was known as the “Forum.” Several members of the Forum had speculated that the above restrictions were imposed because the Revelators wanted nothing “miraculous” associated with the appearance of the Urantia Papers.
Dr. Sadler confided to the group of ministers that he had spent a great number of years seeking to discover natural explanations for what he had been observing. He had consulted with Sir Hubert Wilkins, a noted scientist and explorer who had an interest in psychic phenomena. He also contacted Howard Thurston, a professional magician who was noted for his ability to expose fraudulent mediums and psychics. All of the outside experts who were consulted agreed that the phenomena associated with the contact personality were not classifiable as known so-called psychic activities, such as automatic writing, telepathy, clairvoyance, trances, spirit mediumship, channeling — nor as any psychological disturbance such as split personality.4
It was obvious to Dr. Sprunger that William Sadler had started as a professional, objective researcher and skeptic, and yet somehow had become a believer. Dr. Sprunger asked him how this transformation had occurred. Dr. Sadler replied:
“We set up our ‘Forum’ in the mid-twenties as an informal Sunday tea, a place where a group of about thirty interested people could meet and discuss medical and social issues. The Forum was composed of people from all walks of life, including professionals such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, ministers and teachers, as well as housewives, secretaries, farmers, and laborers. The Forum eventually became involved in examining the Urantia Papers, and in discussing them. Each week, I began to read them one of the Papers and accept questions from the Forum members about what they had heard. In time, it seemed to me the folks in the Forum were becoming more and more impressed with the content of the Papers, and were losing objectivity. I was most concerned with Lena, my wife.”
Indeed, Dr. Lena Sadler was evidently a strong believer in the Papers long before William. She apparently urged him to continue the process when his interest began to flag. Unfortunately, Lena died of cancer in 1939 at the age of 64, more than fifteen years before the Urantia Papers became The Urantia Book.
“So one Sunday,” continued Dr. Sadler, “I made a speech to the group about the importance of maintaining a tough, critical and objective approach to the material. To my astonishment, the response I got was almost like a testimonial meeting! The essence of the reaction was: ‘We don’t care who wrote these Papers, they simply make more sense than anything else we have ever read along this line.’”
“Now, I believed that my own professional reputation was at stake. I had often declared in public that there were no genuine mediumistic phenomena, and I wasn’t going to let one baffling case change my mind. I felt that in time I would discover a natural explanation for this remarkable case.
“However, as years went by I became more and more impressed with the quality and the consistency of the material that was being received. I became satisfied in my own mind that the subject involved in the materializations could not have authored the Papers we were receiving. He simply did not have the qualifications nor the abilities to do so. I finally became satisfied that I was not dealing with some hoax or trick, but some kind of an authentic phenomenon.
“Finally, in the mid-thirties — over twenty years after I had first encountered this case — I carefully studied a Paper evaluating the personalities of the apostles of Jesus. It was at that point that I threw in the intellectual towel. I am a psychiatrist, and I believe I know my business. But this Paper was a real blow to my pride. I believe that if I assembled a half dozen of the world’s best psychiatrists and had years to prepare it, we could not collectively fabricate a paper with this ring of genuineness and insight. So I said to myself: ‘I don’t know what this is, but I do know it is the highest quality of philosophical-religious material I have ever read.’”
From that point on, Dr. Sadler became not simply a detached professional director of the group, he became a proactive and dedicated leader.
February 1, 2014
THE KEY PLAYERS IN THE MAY 7, 1958 meeting were certainly Dr. Sadler and Dr. Sprunger. It is important to set the stage for this rendezvous by providing additional background about both Dr. Sadler and Dr. Sprunger, so the reader will understand the meeting’s significance. Each was a formidable personality. Dr. Sadler was energetic and dominating in a friendly, personable manner. At the time Dr. Sadler met with Dr. Sprunger and his associate ministers, Sadler was nearly 83 years of age, still vigorous, but mellowing well into the autumn of a very successful career. Meredith Sprunger was a gracious and perhaps less assertive man of 42, yet one who possessed comparable depth and academic development.
Dr. William S. Sadler was without question a man of unique academic and professional stature. Dr. Sadler’s 1942 listing in Who’s Who gives an idea of his versatility and accomplishments (see next page).He had been nationally noted, and featured in an article in Reader’s Digest magazine. His training had been exceptionally broad in two key disciplines: psychology and theology. Dr. Sadler’s books reflected religious insights, extensive clinical experience, as well as profound knowledge of the science of the human mind. If there was any weakness in his holistic vision that was apparent from his written works, it might be the third key discipline of human thought — the great intellectual unifier — philosophy.
Dr. Meredith Sprunger was one of those rare scholars who was as well grounded in religion and science as Dr. Sadler. As an ordained minister he naturally had a strong educational background in theology. In addition, Dr. Sprunger had a doctorate in psychology, a clinical practice, was trained as a social scientist, and engaged in a successful academic career at the Indiana Institute of Technology. With his long experience as a college professor and administrator, Dr. Sprunger was also thoroughly trained in philosophy. So it was that Dr. Sprunger brought to the meeting what might be considered an even more balanced and broader working knowledge than Dr. Sadler of all three of the great disciplines of human knowledge: science, religion and philosophy.
The stage was set for a unique relationship. Dr. Sprunger would win the confidence and respect of William Sadler. The two would become colleagues in their pursuit to better understand, and to help propagate, the Urantia Revelation. It was over a decade later when Dr. Sprunger officiated at the memorial service of his friend and colleague. He would later write of the human side of Dr. Sadler:
“Although Dr. Sadler was an extraordinary person with great talents and diverse experience in serving humankind, he was also a warm and loving person with a great sense of humor. Dr. Sadler’s life experience uniquely prepared him to serve as a pioneer in the field of medicine, psychiatry, and religion.”
Next week: The astounding meeting.
January 20, 2014
The astounding narrative of Dr. Sadler continues …
“A thorough study of this case has convinced me that it is not one of ordinary trance. While the sleep seems to be quite of a natural order, it is very profound, and so far we have never been able to awaken the subject when in this state; but the body is never rigid, and the heart action is never modified, the respiration is sometimes markedly interfered with. This man is utterly unconscious, wholly oblivious to what takes place, and, unless told about it subsequently, never knows that he has been used as a sort of clearing house for the coming and going of alleged extra-planetary personalities. In fact, he is more or less indifferent to the whole proceeding, and shows a surprising lack of interest in these affairs as they occur from time to time.”
Although this may seem old-hat to Urantians now, we should remember that this may be the most complete description of the early contacts that Dr. Sadler ever wrote. The Mind at Mischief was printed in several editions in 1929, and after that, Clyde told me the reference was deleted. The most astounding paragraph follows:
“In no way are these night visitations like the séances associated with spiritualism. At no time during the period of eighteen years’ observation has there been a communication from any source that claimed to be the spirit of a deceased human being. The communications which have been written, or which we have had the opportunity to hear spoken, are made by a vast order of alleged beings who claim to come from other planets to visit this world, to stop here as student visitors for study and observation when they are en route from one universe to another or from one planet to another. These communications further arise in alleged spiritual beings who purport to have been assigned to this planet for duties of various sorts.”
Dr. Sadler then admits he has not been able to discover the psychic, or unconscious, source of the information that was being disclosed. The case remained a bafflement to him.
“Eighteen years of study and careful investigation have failed to reveal the psychic origin of these messages. I find myself at the present time just where I was when I started. Psychoanalysis, hypnotism, intensive comparison, fail to show that the written or spoken messages of this individual have origin in his own mind. Much of the material secured through this subject is quite contrary to his habits of thought, to the way in which he has been taught, and to his entire philosophy. In fact, of much that we have secured, we have failed to find anything of its nature in existence. Its philosophic content is quite new, and we are unable to find where very much of it has ever found human expression.”
Note the scientific detachment by which Dr. Sadler addresses this case. He apparently had not yet, in 1929, given up his quest to find a scientific answer to the phenomenon.
“Much as I would like to report details of this case, I am not in a position to do so at present. I can only say that I have found in these years of observation that all the information imparted through this source has proved to be consistent within itself. While there is considerable difference in the quality of the communications, this seems to be reasonably explained by a difference in state of development and order of the personalities making the communications. Its philosophy is consistent. It is essentially Christian and is, on the whole, entirely harmonious with the known scientific facts and truths of this age. In fact, the case is so unusual and extraordinary that it establishes itself immediately, as far as my experience goes, in a class by itself, one which has thus far resisted all my efforts to prove it to be of auto-psychic origin. Our investigations are being continued and, as I have intimated, I hope some time in the near future to secure permission for the more complete reporting of the phenomena connected with this interesting case.”
The e next step for the team of ministers was clear: They would need to go to Chicago and meet personally with Dr. William S. Sadler to discuss the origin of the Urantia Papers. The remarkable meeting took place May 7, 1958.
January 3, 2014
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About a month after first seeing the Urantia Book in December of 1955 and being amused by its claim of celestial authorship, Dr. Sprunger, who was Vice President of the Indiana-Michigan Conference Board, was to pick up Judge Hammerschmidt and drive him to their January council meeting in Jackson, Michigan. During the two and a half hour journey, the Judge cautiously mentioned his tentative investigation of Spiritualism.
Hammerschmidt had lost his wife over a decade before and, in his grief, he looked into the practice of Spiritualism. He was not impressed by what he discovered. Upon seeing that Dr. Sprunger was not at all disturbed about an open discussion of such things, the Judge was emboldened to comment: “Say, I’ve got a book that I would like you to read and tell me what you think about it.” Dr. Sprunger kept his eyes on the road and the bleak January landscape ahead. He knew what was coming. Not wanting to hurt the Judge’s feelings, however, Meredith replied: “OK, Judge, send it to me.”
In about a week, a package was delivered to the Sprunger household with The Urantia Book enclosed. Over the subsequent months, Dr. Sprunger made several efforts to read sections of the extensive work. From his fleeting appraisal of the Urantia Papers, Dr. Sprunger thought the authors’ use of esoteric names might indicate the Papers represented some form of Theosophy. He even took it on vacation with him that year, but could not get interested in the material enough to read much of it.
September of 1956 arrived, and The Urantia Book had not been even partially read. Dr. Sprunger realized that he would be meeting with Judge Hammerschmidt in October, and he felt obligated to read something to get off the hook. He decided to read a small series of Papers and candidly tell the Judge what he thought of the material. So Dr. Sprunger began to examine the Table of Contents again.
As he skimmed the contents, Meredith recalled the book had a large section devoted to the “Life and Teachings of Jesus.” He surmised that with his academic theological background he could surely make short work of this material. Previously, he had read other attempts, such as the Aquarian Gospel, to portray the early life of Jesus. Apocryphal stories about Jesus molding little clay birds and then bringing them to life did not impress him. So, with the intention of quickly refuting the material, Dr. Sprunger began to read the Urantia Papers’ account of the life of Jesus. He did not find what he expected to find.
Meredith became gradually enthralled as he read. The Papers had the ring of reasonable, perhaps even authentic, historicity. As the narrative progressed to the story of John the Baptist and paralleled the New Testament account, Dr. Sprunger was deeply impressed. The colorful and vivid recounting of the life of the Master unfolded, at times moving Dr. Sprunger to tears. When he closed the book on the final Paper: The Faith of Jesus, Meredith concluded the Urantia account was harmonious with perceived New Testament realities. More than that, he believed it was the most profound and inspiring life and teachings of Jesus in print.
Due to the unexpected high quality of Part IV — the 700-page depiction of The Life and Teachings of Jesus — Dr. Sprunger suddenly found himself intensely motivated to read the rest of the material. Starting with the Foreword, Meredith read the balance of the Urantia Papers. When he had finished, he realized the Urantia Papers offered the most comprehensive and integrated picture of science, philosophy and religion that he had ever read. Suddenly, everything he had ever learned was rearranged and melded with new concepts into a grand, new, mind-boggling synthesis.
Dr. Sprunger pondered this immense new paradigm of actuality for some time. He thought: “If this is not an authentic picture of Reality, it is the way it ought to be!”
Meredith contacted Judge Hammerschmidt to find out where he had gotten the book. The Judge, delighted at Sprunger’s interest, informed him that a friend by the name of W. H. Harrah had given him the book. Mr. Harrah was a successful businessman, and the co-founder of the National Standard Company. He was also a member of a group in Chicago that had somehow originally acquired the Urantia Papers.
A luncheon meeting was arranged. Mr. Harrah explained that the leader of the group that had published The Urantia Book was Dr. William Sadler. Dr. Sprunger was surprised. He knew of William Sadler by his reputation. Dr. Sadler had studied overseas with Freud, and was sometimes referred to as the “father of American Psychiatry.” Dr. Sadler was also a prolific author in his field and a college professor. Meredith had friends who had taken Dr. Sadler’s course of Pastoral Counseling at McCormick Theological Seminary.
Meredith decides it is time to investigate further. He begins with a study of Dr. Sadler’s book, “The Mind at Mischief,” a treatise debunking virtually all psychic phenomena, published in 1929. I will explain what he discovered in my next blog. LARRY MULLINS
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