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.

March 5, 2014

The Forum, and How Dr. Sadler Changed from Skeptic to Believer

     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.

January 14, 2014

Dr. Sprunger discovers Sadler’s “Mind at Mischief”

When Dr. Sprunger revealed to a group of ministers what little he had learned about the origin of the book from Mr. Harrah, the group began studying the books written by Dr. Sadler as part of their research project. They discovered highly relevant material in one of the books that Dr. Sadler had authored: The Mind at Mischief, Funk & Wagnalls, 1929. The subtitle of the book was: “Tricks and Deceptions of the Subconscious and how to Cope with Them.”

 The Mind at Mischief

Out of all of his voluminous mainline writings, Dr. Sadler mentions the process that was to eventually lead to the materialization of the Urantia Papers in only one year’s printings of a single book. At the time of writing The Mind at Mischief, Dr. Sadler was known to be a leading debunker of psychic phenomena. The book itself is a powerful rebuttal of all known processes involving marginal human consciousness that produce “messages” from the “spirit world.” In the foreword to the book, Robert H. Gault, Ph.D. and Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University wrote:

“The psychiatrists of our day are showing us that in the background of personalities are wells of latent memories that may account, literally by the wholesale, for the phenomena of dreams, automatic writings, “spirit communications,” and many other phenomena connected with hysteria, disassociation, and other abnormal psychic  states.” 1

    In The Mind at Mischief Dr. Sadler took the position that, in his experience, all psychic phenomena fall into three categories: (1). Self-deception. (2). Emotional Illness. (3). Fraud. In his book he presented case history after case history to support these views. However, the ministers found a tiny crack in his professional stance on page 332:

“Perhaps this statement should be qualified by adding that there are possibly one or two exceptions to this general classification of so-called psychics and trance mediums. Many years ago I was made acquainted with a very extraordinary phenomenon of this sort, which it has been my privilege to observe periodically from that time to this, and someday I hope to report more fully upon this unique case; but I hasten to say that in none of my observations of this individual and the peculiar associated experiences of the night period was there ever anything that pointed toward spiritualism. In fact, the contacts of this individual with the alleged forces which dominated at such times, whatever they were, were always in a most positive manner antagonistic to, and condemnatory of, all beliefs or tendencies associated with the idea of the return of the dead to participate in the affairs of the world of the living.”

      A footnote for this paragraph led the investigators to an Appendix in the back of the book. Here they discovered a rather detailed disclaimer written by Dr. Sadler.   Dr. Sadler mentions two cases in this Appendix, only one of which he was able to investigate. It was this case that he expanded upon in depth.   It appeared that the ministers had found the thread they were looking for:

  “The . . . exception has to do with a rather peculiar case of psychic phenomena, one which I find myself unable to classify, and which I would like very much to narrate more fully; I cannot do so here, however, because of a promise which I feel under obligation to keep sacredly. In other words, I have promised not to publish this case during the lifetime of the individual. I hope sometime to secure a modification of that promise and to be able to report this case more fully because of its interesting features. I was brought in contact with it, in the summer of 1911, and I have had it under my observation more or less ever since, having been present at probably 250 of the night sessions, many of which have been attended by a stenographer who made voluminous notes.”

To most Urantia Book readers this is now a very familiar paragraph. Yet, in the Seventies and Eighties it was very seldom seen. I recall seeing it for the first time about 1975. It was in the home of Berkeley Elliott, of Oklahoma City. Berkeley had been a reader almost since The Urantia Book had first been published. She was a good friend of Bill Sadler, Jr., the son of Dr. Sadler, who often visited the Oklahoma group in the late Fifties and early Sixties. I happened to pull a volume off of one of Berkeley’s bookshelves that day, titled: The Mind at Mischief. I remembered Clyde Bedell once telling me of the Appendix of that book, and how it contained a reference to an individual known only as the sleeping subject.” When I was able, at last, to read those words of Dr. Sadler the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was so rare, in those days, to see anything like this. Material such as that in The Mind at Mischief was considered secret, and only a special few were privy to it. The narrative continued, more in the next blog.            LARRY MULLINS

January 3, 2014

Dr. Meredith Sprunger reads The Urantia Book

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

December 22, 2013

How Meredith Sprunger Got Involved with The Urantia Book Part I

Dr. Meredith Sprunger Circa 1955

The late Dr. Meredith had a formidable resume. He was president of the Indiana Institute of Technology, and taught as a professor at Elmherst College.  He was a licensed practicing psychologist, and an active ordained minister. How did such a man, so much a part of the religious evolutionary mainstream, get involved with the Urantia movement?

In December of 1955, Reverend Edward Brueseke, Pastor of the Zion United Church of Christ of South Bend, Indiana, handed Dr. Meredith Sprunger a copy of a newly published book. This 1955 printing of The Urantia Book was impressive in size, containing over 2,000 pages and a million words bound within its deep blue covers.

“Judge Hammerschmidt gave me this book,” said Dr. Brueseke. “Some businessmen think it’s a new Bible.” He and his wife smiled as Meredith held the massive volume in his hands and opened it. Meredith scanned the Table of Contents pages. It was the alleged authors of the various 196 Papers that composed the book that challenged his credulity rather than the titles of the Papers. The second Paper was titled: “The Nature of God” by a “Divine Counselor.” Another was titled: “The Universe of Universes” by a “Perfecter of Wisdom.” Another: “Personalities of the Grand Universe” supposedly authored by a “Mighty Messenger.” These were enough to turn him off and strike him as ludicrous.

Meredith read a few of the titles and authors aloud to his wife, Irene, seated next to him. Then they all had a gentle laugh about Judge Hammerschmidt’s naiveté and closed the book. However, both ministers and their wives maintained respect for Judge Louis Hammerschmidt’s contributions to the Zion Church. He was an esteemed layperson of the larger United Church of Christ. Judge Hammerschmidt had been instrumental in bringing a Children’s Hospital to South Bend, and he had donated a chapel to Elmhurst College.

However, there seemed no euphemistic way of putting it, The Urantia Book must be some kind of hoax. Dr. Sprunger set the book aside, and assumed that the December, 1955 glimpse would be the last he would see of it. He was wrong.

In my next blog, I will explain the circumstances that changed his mind … and redirected his entire life.

 

December 16, 2013

Why Did I Write this History Part 2

I would not attempt the writing of this history without the help of the late Dr. Meredith Justin Sprunger. He is an ordained minister with an educational background in philosophy and theology, a social scientist with a doctorate in psychology, and has had a distinguished career as a college professor and administrator. He has also had an extensive writing career, and is currently the editor of The Spiritual Fellowship Journal.

Dr. Sprunger was acquainted with three of the six individuals who made up the team (known as the Contact Commission) that interfaced with the celestial Revelators. When I met Dr. Sprunger in the mid-seventies, I had many questions about the origin of the Urantia Papers. Information was extremely difficult to come by in those days. I knew that he had written several papers on the origin, content and the significance of the Urantia Papers, and had authored the only “official” material that was published by Urantia Foundation (the publishers of The Urantia Book) on the origin of the Revelation. I was certain that Dr. Sprunger knew more than he was allowed to present in his official pamphlets. To my surprise, I found him to be open and candid about what he knew. Unlike any individual in the “inner circles,” his explanations were clear and refreshing. He supplied me (as he has many seekers) with his own writings about the Papers, and also prudently disclosed many interesting things Dr. Sadler had told him. My curiosity was soon dispelled, and I followed Dr. Sprunger’s advice and continued to evaluate the Urantia Papers on the basis of their content. Over the years I have become completely convinced that the Urantia Papers are exactly what they purport themselves to be: a Revelation of epochal significance.

However, I was convinced that many questions about the origin remained unanswered, and several “forbidden” doors had never been opened to candid investigation. As stated, I had hoped eventually some Urantian old-timer would fearlessly open those doors and begin an authentic historical investigation. Then it dawned on me one day that I had become an “old-timer” myself. I had been handed a first edition of The Urantia Book by Clyde Bedell, who was one of the first Urantians, and a charter member of a group called the Forum. I had watched Clyde pore over an immense table covered with files of 3 x 5 cards, as he prepared his original Concordex of The Urantia Book. I worked for Clyde for three years, and discussed the Urantia Papers and his experiences in the Forum numerous times. In the seventies I had several conversations with one of the surviving Contact Commissioners, and served for eight years as a General Councilor in what was then called the Urantia Brotherhood.

Fortunately, my wife Joan (who had originally suggested this project) has a remarkable knowledge of the Papers. I have always depended upon Joan’s insights and integrity when developing Urantia undertakings. Even so, we came to realize that we needed help, and that an adequate history of the Urantia Papers could only be achieved with group wisdom and collaboration. A team effort by several Urantians would be necessary. I first sought out our friend Dr. Sprunger. Gradually we added several seasoned Urantians who have an exceptional knowledge of the Urantia Papers, and a great deal of experience in the Urantia Movement.

The History delves deeply into the origin of the Revelation. Dr. Sprunger’s early investigations have produced a great deal of information. His knowledge is the product of years of research and hours of discussion with those associated with the origin of the Papers. During the period of his inquiry, Dr. Sprunger had continued to serve pastorates in the United Church of Christ. His career as a faculty member of the Indiana Institute of Technology also went forward. In addition to serving as head of the Department of Psychology, he also chaired the division of Liberal Arts and served as President. In his own investigations, he has been careful to maintain academic objectivity and to exercise critical evaluation of both the Urantia Papers and the Urantia Movement. He cross-validated the essential elements of the episodes we are about to relate with people who had first-hand experience with the events associated with the origin of the Urantia Papers.

The story of the Urantia Papers also required the assembling of a mosaic of older documents and correspondence, more recently available documents, and testimony from a great number of sources. Not all sources I used were friendly to this inquiry. Yet, some individuals who have strong agendas to prove the Urantia Papers to be a fraud have sometimes provided vital links and illuminated dark corners. At other times, individuals who have sought to explain or rationalize errors or obscure the facts have provided information that could not have otherwise been obtained. Whatever the source, I drew upon evidence that was plausible, verifiable and consistent with other credible elements of the puzzle. The reader can develop personal conclusions from the resulting assemblage.

I pledge to the reader that I have been candid in these pages. In the spirit of a sincere quest for truth, with the guidance and suggestions of Joan, Dr. Sprunger and several esteemed Urantians, I have related everything I have personally learned from various sources, and have documented those sources. When in doubt, I admitted it. If I needed to speculate, or draw a general conclusion, I have disclosed this to the reader. If an editing team member strongly disagreed with a conclusion, I have drawn out and presented his or her views in addition to my own. The essential testimonies of the protagonists who were there, and who played roles in this extraordinary drama have been documented. Otherwise, in the case of verbal information that I have personally acquired from various Urantian veterans, I used only things I have heard from at least two or more sources independently, and that were generally harmonious with other data. On this basis, I believe the basic historical facts have been fairly, reasonably and clearly established. Even when not varnished, embellished or speculated upon, these facts form clear patterns and weave an intriguing and fairly complete tapestry.

Histories are inescapably adversarial and painful processes. The people who undertook this task of developing a good, sound history are aware that the final product is a compelling argument that could help shape the destiny of the Urantia Papers. The stakes are high, because what is ultimately at issue are the various philosophies and agendas of those who seek to control the Urantia Revelation. It will come as no surprise then, that the interpretations of the events relating to the Urantia Papers are destined to be fiercely contested. Sometimes the facts about the Urantia Papers are at issue, but more often the meaning of the facts will be the center of historical controversy. Our effort to develop a good history was very carefully orchestrated, but we are aware that it will not contain the final words. Our team discovered many unexpected things along the way that need a great deal more research. What we will attempt to achieve here are three cardinal goals: [1]. To establish a reasonable foundation of documented facts, [2]. To open as many heretofore “forbidden” doors as possible for further investigation, and [3]. To lay down threads for future Urantians to pick up, follow, and develop. In short, we are attempting a beginning.

August 12, 2012

THE ULTIMATE MANTRA

“Mantras work,” the gurus tell us. And they do, for a while. Eventually, though, they get old and stale. The wheels come off, and we need a new one.

But what if we could find the ultimate mantra? A mantra that contained revelatory words that are timeless and inspired, that would awaken the spirit within? What if we could find a mantra that was “unfailing?” One that could “overcome the world” and restore our faith? Would we say this mantra daily, or better, several times a day? What if such a gift had been given us by the revelators? And what if it was hiding in plain sight in the pages of The Urantia Book?

“The consciousness of a victorious human life on earth is born of that creature faith which dares to challenge each recurring episode of existence when confronted with the awful spectacle of human limitations, by the unfailing declaration: Even if I cannot do this, there lives in me one who can and will do it, a part of the Father-Absolute of the universe of universes. And that is ‘the victory which overcomes the world, even your faith.’”  [P.59 - §5; 4.4.9]

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