May 15, 2014
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
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 10, 2014
The Meeting: May 7, 1958
Dr. Sadler was well aware of the curiosity of the ministerial team in the origin of the Urantia Papers, as well as their interest in the technique by which they were materialized. At the beginning of the meeting, Dr. Sadler informed the ministers that although he was not permitted to tell what little he knew about the materialization of the Papers, there was nothing to prevent him from explaining the way the Papers were not materialized. He offered a paper that listed every imaginable form of subconscious mind or psychic activity. (See below). At the bottom of the paper was a note reading: “The technique of the reception of The Urantia Book in English in no way parallels or impinges upon any of the above phenomena of marginal consciousness.”
Dr. Sadler went on to explain that, as nearly as he could determine, the appearance of the Urantia Papers was associated with some form of superconscious — not subconscious — activity.
PSYCHIC PHENOMENA THAT WERE DR. SADLER’S LIST OF NOT USED TO MATERIALIZE THE URANTIA PAPERS
During the meeting, Dr. Sadler candidly discussed any questions the ministers asked him. However, he made it clear that he would not talk about two things: the name of the individual who was used in some undisclosed way for the materialization of the Papers, nor would he discuss the details of the materialization. Dr. Sadler explained that the small group, known as the “Contact Commission,” that had interfaced with the contact personality and the Revelators, had been required to take vows of secrecy about these subjects. Sadler was asked why these restrictions were imposed. He gave these reasons:
“. The main reason for not revealing the identity of the contact personality is that the revelators did not want any human being — any human name — ever to be associated with The Urantia Book. They wanted the Revelation to stand upon its own declarations and teachings. They are determined that future generations shall have the book wholly free from all mortal connections—they do not want a new St. Peter, St. Paul, Luther, Calvin or Wesley. The book does not even bear the imprint of the printer who brought the book into being.” [NOTE: A printer traditionally includes a small imprint of their identity on large publications. In this case, R.R. Donnelley & Sons was requested to waive this identification.]
“. There is much connected with the appearance of the Urantia Papers which no human being fully understands. No one really knows just how this revelation came to appear in written English. If anyone should tell all he really knows about this [sic] technique and methods employed throughout the years of getting this revelation, such a narration would satisfy no one — there is simply too much missing”
NEXT: DR. SADLER EXPLAINS HOW THE FORUM CAME TO BE
February 1, 2014
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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.
Copyright © 2010 Larry Mullins. All Rights Reserved.