March 18, 2014

THE QUESTION OF THE ORIGIN OF THE URANTIA PAPERS

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”

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