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.
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 14, 2014
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
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
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.
November 30, 2013
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I have spent more than thirty years studying the Urantia Papers. I have had dozens of discussions with many people who had personal knowledge about the events that culminated in the materialization of the Papers. As a result, I am utterly convinced that, circa 1906 – 1955, non-material beings of super-human intelligence and maturity interfaced regularly with a group of (eventually) six mortals for the purpose of providing a religious revelation of epochal significance.
The people involved were neither psychics nor dilettantes. On the contrary, the key figure, Dr. William S. Sadler, was a nationally prominent psychiatrist and the author of 42 books. Dr. Sadler had a well-deserved reputation as a debunker of psychic phenomena. In his book, The Mind at Mischief, he refers to those who engage in such esoteric phenomena as generally: “Fraudulent mediums and self-deceived psychics.” The story of his struggle against honest recognition of what took place before his eyes ¾ and the validation of what he had trained all his life as a scientist to debunk, is a fascinating subplot to the history of the Urantia Papers.
However, Dr. Sadler and the other five central protagonists in these events are all gone now. Aside from the Papers themselves, the six key players left only fragments of information about how the Urantia Papers came to be. There is not, nor has there ever been, an authority on the Urantia Papers ¾ neither on their origin nor their remarkable contents. How the Papers were materialized into the English language is not fully known. Although no human author has ever been associated with the Urantia Papers, there was a seventh individual who is critically important to this discussion. He has been called the “sleeping subject,” or the “contact personality.” All accounts indicated he was an ordinary person who was somehow involved with the materialization of the Urantia Papers. We know only that he was not a so-called medium, and although the entire text of the Urantia Papers was originally in written form, we can reasonably declare that he was not the author ¾ nor did he “channel” or “automatic-write” the text of the Urantia Papers. The Urantia Papers tell us that a part of God indwells each normal and morally conscious mortal, and this Divine Fragment somehow participated in the materialization, but the mind of the human sleeping subject was not used. Dr. Sadler emphatically and repeatedly stated that no known psychic phenomena were associated with the materialization of the Urantia Papers. The sleeping subject has never been, and will probably never be, identified.
Surely, the original intent of the unseen Revelators was not to create mysteries, but rather establish a framework that would allow the Urantia Papers to stand on their own. It was apparently deemed desirable by the Revelators that readers would base their evaluation of the Urantia Papers purely upon their content, and not upon some supposed “miraculous” source. Therefore, neither the identity of the “sleeping subject” nor what little the team of six knew about the materialization of the Papers were to be disclosed. However, human nature being what it is, there has gradually developed much speculation about the identity of the subject and the method and circumstances by which the Urantia Papers came to be.
For these reasons, conjecture has unfortunately filled the void. Due to the nature of the material in the Urantia Papers, they attract a great variety of individuals. Some are allured by the Apocrypha surrounding the origin of the Urantia Papers more than by the spiritual message of the Papers themselves. Likewise, critics of the Urantia Papers have generally focused upon erroneous accounts of the origin of the Papers and the alleged foibles of the people involved in the Urantia Movement, and have not seriously considered the content of the Revelation. Serious scholars have been repelled by the bizarre speculations of a few Urantian pretenders ¾ as well as by commentaries by critics of the Papers ¾ many of whom claim to have special status and to have exclusive possession of “inside” information.
However, in recent years a valid body of known historical background facts about the Papers has gradually emerged. If we could stand back, so to speak, and view all the information available in one sweeping glance, we would likely be confused. Yet, if we cautiously and discriminatively begin to follow the chronological thread of verifiable data, we can trace a consistent, documented, and continuous path. The sources are scattered and varied, but the emerging body of information is consistent within itself — plausible, and generally satisfying.
I have hoped that an accurate, documented history of the Urantia Papers would eventually be formulated, but this has not happened. So, I have decided to make the effort. This account will not be encumbered by any “official” sanction or approval. At the outset, it is important to understand that this is a history of the Urantia Papers, not a history of what has been called the Urantia Movement. We will discuss the readership and the personalities involved only to the degree they are related to the history of the Urantia Papers.
The identity of the sleeping subject continues to fascinate readers. A book published in 1999 by John M. Bunker and Karen L. Pressler sought to prove Edgar Cayce was the subject. (Edgar Cayce and The Urantia Book, 1996). The Cayce family denies this, and Dr. Sprunger and other Urantian scholars remained unpersuaded as well. My own judgment compels me to refute this idea. Cayce died in 1945, which was very probably ten years before the final messages were received. Also, the Cayce writings, with their emphasis on reincarnation and psychic phenomena, are far afield from the Urantia Papers.
Copyright © 2010 Larry Mullins. All Rights Reserved.