SADLER ON SPIRITUALISM
Before continuing with the narrative it is
necessary at this point to deal with the heart of the concern in the birth
of this divine revelation. How do we know it was not channelled? How do
we know the Sleeping Subject was not a channeler? The very term "sleeping
subject" strongly suggests just that. What were Sadler's views concerning
channeling, and why did he study the Sleeping Subject for more than twenty
years? Are The Urantia Papers truly of divine origin and not of
devil origin? Were the Papers revealed through trustworthy divine agencies?
These questions cannot be answered with proof.
I can only offer the evidence uncovered in this search. And I can show
why I personally have such strong faith in the authenticity of the revelation.
The Revelation was provided in such a way that
individual must make this decision for himself. The methods of revelation,
and the use of Sadler, with his strengths and human frailties, place the
decision in our hands. God does not void this opportunity for contribution
to the future of this world. There is no final authority we can consult
to reassure us. The revelation was given in such a way that God left the
decision in our hands.
There was a profound reason for this opportunity
for choice. God's work today is one of faith. He does not show himself
in the sky, and he does not send his agents down here in open communication
to offer incontrovertible evidence. He is asking us to make decisions,
based on the evidence we have available, on our abilities to make sound
judgments, and on our living faith. If we have those qualities we can contribute
to the future of this planet. But if we shy away from the hard decisions,
away from the choices set before us, we will not contribute.
This opportunity is unique in the universe.
The residents of this planet can contribute to God's plans based strictly
on faith. No other planet has been offered such opportunity. This unique
position is given because this is the planet on which Jesus had his incarnation,
and because he is using it as a demonstration world. He will show all fallen
rebels the true worth of his created children. But only those who have
strong faith will carry forward in spite of the most horrendous fears and
I came to this task with full understanding
of this limitation. I recognized that each and everyone will debate and
struggle. Therefore, I attempt to provide as much information as I possibly
can, in effort to help with those momentous decisions. But, as a limited
human mortal, I cannot offer proof.
Under this imposing weight I shall now discuss
why Sadler was not a channeler, did not use channelers, did not believe
in spiritualist communications, and strongly condemned such practices.
Further on I shall demonstrate why he could not have written nor have edited
But the devil would not leave Sadler alone.
Later, after Sadler had the revelation complete within his hands, and before
it was published, events unfolded in Sadler's household which brought the
revelation into jeopardy. I shall discuss those elements also.
Throughout his life, from his earliest adult
days, to his death in 1969, Sadler strongly condemned spiritualism, channeling,
and psychic phenomena. His thought can be traced from articles in the Seventh
Day Adventist Review and Herald in 1899, when he was 24 years old,
to The Physiology of Faith and Fear in 1912, to The Truth About
Spiritualism in 1923, to The Mind at Mischief in 1929, to The
Theory and Practice of Psychiatry in 1936, to Mental Mischief and
Emotional Conflicts in 1947, and to The Practice of Psychiatry
in 1953, when he was 78 years old.
Throughout those many years Sadler steadfastly
and unfailingly believed that spiritualism and psychic phenomena were either
outright frauds or the products of deluded minds. Only reluctantly did
he admit that some few cases might be attributed to spirit forces, but
then he took the position that they were beyond the pale of science, and
outside his abilities as a psychiatrist. He relegated those few exceptions
to theology. "It is likely that the solution of the problems associated
with this type of spiritualism must eventually be referred to the theological
tribunals." See Mental Mischief and Emotional Conflicts, page
What did Sadler mean by "spiritualism?" How
do we think of it today? How is it related to the more recent term "channeling?"
The term "spiritualism" is really a misnomer.
The term connotes a spiritual mechanism, thus to give it credibility. But
from tradition it also carries strong implications of "talking with the
dead," and such phenomena have been strongly condemned by religious believers
since ancient times. The term also is commonly used to identify the general
class of phenomena attendant upon other forms of spirit communications.
Thus confusion arises in understanding. The term "spiritism" is used more
prevalently in Europe and is more accurate to describe the phenomena. "Spiritualism"
is a subset of "spiritism." Sadler never differentiated these differences.
He always used the term "spiritualism." Regardless which term is
used, "spiritualism," "spiritism," or "channeling," the phenomena are communications
with invisible spirit beings, whether they claim to be the "spirits"
of departed human relatives, or other invisible spirits who inhabit the
Sadler was tied analytically and emotionally
to "spiritualism" as communication with dead human mortals, although his
writings show that he recognized the occasional presence of other "spirits."
Because of his emotional reaction to "spiritualism," and in spite of his
sharp analytical mind, he never clearly defined these "communications"
in terms of their generic process. Had he done so he might have come to
different conclusions about their origins.
The communications truly are from "spirits."
They are from invisible personalities who inhabit the invisible spirit
realms. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:
"Spiritualism" connoted not only communications
from the "other side," but also all the trappings of dark rooms, ectoplasmic
forms, trumpet voices, and so on. "Channeling," a more recent term for
the identical process, is viewed more narrowly as communication from invisible
spirit personalities without the trappings associated with spiritualism.
A still more recent term for the identical process is "Transmitters and
Receivers." But in all cases, regardless of how we label it, the process
Communication to human mortals from the
spirit world through the mind of another human mortal.
There is no other mechanism. A link through
human mind is necessary.
Although many modern educated minds find the
trappings associated with "spiritualism" repugnant, they are perfectly
at home with spirit communications. The fraudulent personality behind the
process is well aware of the differences in psychology between this generation
and the last, between superstitious mentalities and modern sophistications.
He styles his methods and his labels accordingly.
With these few introductory remarks and questions
I shall now go on to Sadler's views on spiritualism. The preceding remarks
offer some delineation of the elements confusing our understanding. Sadler
is important to us for two reasons: a) he was the personality chosen to
bring us this Revelation, and b) he typifies modern skeptical attitudes
about spiritualism and psychic phenomena.
In order to document his thought and position
I shall begin with an article published in the Review and Herald,
the official SDA church instrument, July 25, 1899. The title of the article
was Are We Spiritualists?
Sadler, at age 24, begins like this:
Sadler then goes on to a series of questions
and answers which should help religious believers firm their minds concerning
the reality of the dead being dead. He concludes as follows:
Obviously, Sadler was writing maturely and
devoutly at a young age.
Sadler emphasized that dead people were dead,
and could not communicate with anyone.
As The Urantia Papers state clearly
on page 1680:
Any spirit personality who pretends to be a
dead and departed loved one, and who returns to communicate with the living,
is prosecuting deception with eternal consequences. The dead truly are
dead; only evil spirit personalities with insane minds would pretend to
be dead and departed loved ones.
The same absolute criterion holds for the appearance
of any other dead mortals from other planets who are now "spirits." No
loyal spirit being would come through, use, or violate the mind of a living
mortal to communicate with this world.
In his many writings Sadler goes on to deal
with the different aspects of psychic phenomena. He denied the possibility
that "Clairvoyants" had access to spirit intelligence which permitted them
to pass along truly amazing descriptions of the condition and expectation
of their clients. Four years after he first met the Sleeping Subject, under
the chapter Psychic Fads and Fakes in The Physiology of Faith
and Fear in 1912 he writes:
Here Sadler is adamant that the clairvoyants
possessed their powers through strictly natural means. He did not make
the leap to the possibility that spirit personalities were displaying their
power and abilities through the minds of the clairvoyants.
In 1923, in The Truth About Spiritualism,
he goes into extended discussion of the motives behind human mortals engaging
in spiritualist pursuits.
First, there is the natural hope of life after
death. None of us want it to end here. If a medium can dredge up a dead
father or mother or sister or brother, the return to this world reinforces
our belief in immortality. Dead relatives coming back to life touch us
in our most vulnerable emotional spot.
Second, most of us would like to believe not
only in life after death, but also in a spiritual world with angels and
other assorted personalities. What an honor it would be to join that ensemble
of immortal beings! Therefore, if those spirits would elect to communicate
with us through some other adept human mortal we have a natural inclination
to engage in such exchange.
Third, the drift away from spiritually centered
lives to purely materialistic pursuits, created by modern material science
and a general disbelief in God, has caused despair in many people. Still
writing in 1923, Sadler stated:
1. A general breakdown in the religious tendencies and authority of former generations.
2. The spread of socialism and kindred teachings which are devoid of a spiritual background and setting; and
3. The rapid spread of materialistic tendencies, due to the enormous development of the physical sciences.
Sadler discussed a fourth cause:
In this remark Sadler brings a caustic indictment
of modern "mainline" religions. They truly are decadent, molded around
modern materialistic gratifications, and devoid of answers to the burning
questions of existence. Modern science cast such serious doubt upon many
of the tenets of those religions, upon the apparent mythical stories of
the Bible, and upon the processes of creation, that God was removed to
a far off and inaccessible heaven. Theology was then reduced to "psychological"
penetrations of the human psyche as the explanations of man's urge to know
God and to find him.
How truly unfortunate. Should we be puzzled
or surprised that so many turned to the phenomena of real spirit personalities
talking with them through the mind of other human mortals, and giving them
the hope our religions threw away?
In 1929, twenty-one years after he first met
the Sleeping Subject, he again repeats his views in The Mind at Mischief.
On page 19 he states:
Note that he admits that the "mannerisms" and "voices" of the dead are those of departed human beings, and not those of the medium. He believed the subconscious memory of the medium was imitating those thought patterns, intonations, and inflections characteristic of the dead person. It did not occur to Sadler that a Spirit Personality may have imitated those attributes out of his memory banks, to thus impress the families or friends of the departed loved one.
He goes on to build his theory. On page 23
of The Mind at Mischief he adds to this notion:
Once again Sadler demonstrates that he did not entertain the possibility that a Spirit Personality acted independently within and through the mind of the medium. If he had reached such perspective he might have recognized why the medium was consciously unaware of how those thoughts and statements were created. The medium was not fraudulent; the Spirit Personality was fraudulent. Sadler assigned all such manifestations to an "automatic power of fantasy."
Sadler's limits of understanding may be further
discerned by remarks he made on page 113 of The Mind at Mischief:
Sadler was partly right and partly wrong. The "rules of the game" are not wholly ephemeral; for those many cases of true spirit communications certain principles certainly do apply. But the process is subject to conditions on two sides -- the actions and limitations of the human "medium," and the actions and desires of the "spirit." Since ephemeral personality is involved on both sides, not merely contact with some abstract "universe mind," the process is not subject to strict, repeatable "scientific" rules of observation.
Many of the "mediums" practicing in the Urantia community went out of their way to demonstrate that they could contact the "spirits" without the need for a darkened room. Those modern "mediums" thus supposed they were demonstrating a difference between the capricious spirits of "spiritualist" mediums, and their benign "friends" from the spirit world. Little did they recognize that they had no method by which they could determine the authenticity of their spirit "friends." If evil spirits wished to impersonate "friendship" and "trust" they could not discern the difference.
This capricious behavior on the part of the "spirits" was one of the reasons Sadler could not accept the phenomena as deriving from the spirit world. If the spirits were rational they should behave in a rational manner. Therefore, in Sadler's view, they should be subject to "scientific" evaluation. Unfortunately, Sadler's basic premise was in error. Evil spirits can deceive human mortals as simple child's play. Serious investigators then become susceptible to the ephemeral conditions of that capricious conduct.
Human attributes and personality endowment strongly condition spirit "contact" from other worlds. Certain human mortals can easily make "contact." Other mortals cannot. Because we are so abysmally ignorant of the operations of the "spirit world," and because we cannot get our thinking straight, no one, throughout history, carefully analyzed and defined the "rules of the game." Sadler studied psychics, and reached his conclusions, under such gross limitations.
Thus, Sadler did not have the mental framework necessary for him to come to full understanding of the phenomenon of the Sleeping Subject, or what made that man different from psychic mediums. In his several vague references we do not find statements which show he clearly understood the processes under his study. He made no such discernment simply because he did not clearly understand or identify the differences.
Sadler recognized differences in process, but not differences in cause. For him, evil spirit personalities were not the origin of psychic phenomena; therefore, when he met the Sleeping Subject he could not isolate those phenomena which were due to malicious spirit personality, and those which were from benevolent sources.
In spite of information available at his fingertips, both through his personal experience, and through the Revelation, he never came to a full understanding. Furthermore, the miracle which followed, the miracle of the actual revelation, so engrossed his attention he did not go back to acquire that understanding.
We can come to a better grasp of Sadler's difficulty if we further examine his writings. Within this same limitation of understanding he traces spiritualism from ancient times, and presents the modern scientific classifications of the various branches of the occult.
Sadler provides a long list of examples in his 1923 The Truth About Spiritualism, from the Fox sisters in Hydeville, New York in 1848, who he believes initiated the modern spiritualist movement, to F. W. H. Myers, who popularized spiritualist phenomena in Great Britain, to D. D. Home, a man born near Edinburgh in 1833 and promoted as the patron saint of spiritualism in England by the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to the Rev. Stainton Moses in America, to Mrs. Piper, to the famous Bangs Sister, with some of their séances attended by Sadler, to Eusapia Palladino of Italy. Sadler intended to impress upon his readers the pervasive nature of the phenomena and how the general public of the civilized world was gripped by the possibility of spirit communications with this cruel and mundane world.
In each case Sadler thought he had an explanation on grounds of fraud. The Fox sisters did, indeed, crack the knuckles of their toes to obtain their fraudulent spirit contacts. Myers exploited the trickery of levitated chairs and tables to demonstrate the power of the spirits. Home in England first came to the attention of others when he predicted a friends death, three days before it occurred. He went on to travel all over Europe and became a fast friend of famous people, including Alexis Tolstoi. His feats were phenomenal and elicited volumes of letters testifying to his occult powers. Unfortunately, greed took hold. He manipulated a Mrs. Lyons to give him 30,000£, but who then sued him. Rev. Moses vividly demonstrated whispering voices and strange lights floating through rooms. "The voices are reported to have sometimes, blended into a quartet or a choir which could be heard in gentle meter as if the music were being wafted to the hearers from a considerable distance."
Sadler denied such evidence. He went on and on, attempting to show that each and every case was fraudulent.
He then meticulously analyzes the many different conditions and mechanical manipulations used to create the illusions. From the absence of light, to diversion of attention, to the element of surprise, to control of conditions, to concealment, to the power of suggestion, to the tying or holding of hands, to emotional expectancy, curiosity, and excitement, and to sleight-of-hand, he probes the tools of the spiritualists, who, in Sadler's eyes, become nothing more than magicians. Sadler's assessment was powerfully reinforced when he was shocked to discover that an industry exists to manufacture paraphernalia for the mediumistic séance.
In his attempts to reduce all cases to mechanistic
explanations Sadler pushed the edges of common sense.
Unfortunately, Sadler was not a trained physicist or engineer, otherwise he would have recognized that the necessary electro-magnetic power would have required sources of energy, and size of apparatus, that would have been obvious to all observers. Electromagnetic sophistication to enable the table to "float" rather than suddenly jump up to a magnetic attraction would have required highly refined equipment, certainly not within the budget of the medium. And who raised the tables before electromagnetics was born? In this case he offered his doctor wife to take the medium to another room where she could undress to show that she did not have the control apparatus concealed about her person. Sadler was disappointed when Madam X refused.
Here Sadler exhibits the devious betrayal of mind he placed upon himself by his attitudes about spirit phenomena. All he had to do was examine the table for electro-magnetic properties, and not the medium.
Here Sadler has reference to the form of the "spirits" who appear in darkened rooms during séances. As someone who attempted mechanical explanations Sadler could not bring himself to the possibility that at least some of the phenomena were real.
To Sadler it was simply incredible that spirit
phenomena might actually exist. It was beyond his common sense to accept
that spirits might enter and manipulate the minds of mediums to perform
such feats in actuality, and not be merely the result of magical performances.
He consulted with such famous magicians as Howard Thurston and Harry Houdini
to obtain insights into the deceptive methods used to convince audiences
of the power of their exhibitions. Thurston, Houdini, and others were able
to provide him with explanations which satisfied him.
Again, Sadler apparently never encountered exhibitions which would refute this simplistic explanation. Or if he had he probably rejected them, finding other answers to explain the mechanical trickery. Although many spiritualist performances are real, Sadler, from his mental framework, and in keen condemnation of the phenomena, could not discriminate between the real and the fraudulent.
With this same view he goes on to describe
the use of sulphides and phosphorus to create many of the supposed visible
After exhausting mechanical explanations for
spiritualist "trickery" he goes on to discuss the psychological origins
of psychic phenomena.
Sadler proposed "complex dissociation" as the
psychological basis of spiritist phenomena. He felt that the --
At this point Sadler provides a definition
of what he believes are the source of the "spirits."
Sadler then offers two definitions for "spirit."
Here Sadler provides a definition of benign spirits which follows traditional Christian lines. As human mortals, we may not recognize their influence upon us, and if we should, it may be so subtle as to be indistinguishable from other "mental" or "spiritual" forces or operations. They do not offer incontestable evidence for their existence or contact with us. All of their operations are a matter of faith, and their recognition a matter of belief.
Here I shall take a brief diversion from the main line of this discussion to make an observation about Sadler's sources.
Curiously, in 1923, Sadler is borrowing concepts which we now find in
Urantia Papers. "The spiritual monitors which are assumed to indwell
the human mind" is phraseology which comes directly out of The Urantia
Although, at this point, Sadler may not have accepted The Urantia Papers as divine revelation, and indeed they did not come to us in authorized form until 1934 and 1935, the evidence strongly suggests he accepted the spiritual value and intellectual worth of revealed materials which predated The Urantia Papers, and which were not published.
Sometime between 1913, when he forever left the doctrines of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and 1923, when he wrote this text, he had come to accept material of religious value which had origins from sources other than our traditional Bible and Christian theology.
It is important to note that Sadler does not
make the connection between biblical teaching of spirit entry into human
mind, and the phenomena he is so assiduously pursuing.
The spirit of the Father does not dwell in our livers, or our bowels, or our pancreas. He dwells within our minds.
Sadler also does not refer to the several biblical accounts of possession, again clear description of spirit entry into animal or human mind. See Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. Although virtually everyone through the centuries admitted "devil possession" few seemed to recognize that it meant entry into and possession of the mind by spirit personalities. The "spirits" were always abstruse entities, and the entry was always simple "possession." The concept of spirit personality, with exhibition of will, purpose, and intelligent scheming, did not play in this assignment.
I shall now return to the main line of discussion.
Note how he follows through on this view in
his second definition of "spirit."
Without doubt, Sadler believed that virtually all "spirit" communications with living persons were strictly from the human subconscious.
Although he admitted, on theological grounds, that spirits might possess the human body, in his practical operating hypotheses he did not accept that real spirit entities actually do so through the human mind.
He just did not conceive of it that way. And thus he could not distinguish between subconscious products of the human mind, and spirit products through the human mind.
He is explicit:
This statement, while true for some portion of spiritist phenomena, was largely untrue for the reality of that phenomena.
Evil spirits do enter the human mind, and it is only through the human mind that they can operate.
A great difficulty, for the objective scientific examiner, is that spirit performances, exhibitions, and products are conditioned by the human mind through which they operate. Thus many serious investigators have been confused by the apparent display of the personality attributes of the human medium. The "transmitter" can exhibit only according to the state of the "receiver." This is like a radio or television which may be receiving a clear signal, but faults within its inner circuits may produce fuzzy sound or disrupted visual images.
Again, on page 233 in The Mind At Mischief,
he discussed The Medium's Mind, Sadler expressed his view that the
phenomena had origins in the "marginal" consciousness:
Thus he repeatedly assigns psychic phenomena to products of the marginal consciousness when the medium is in a partial or complete trance. He does not recognize that the trance is a condition necessary for the human mortal to receive entry into his mind by a spirit personality.
The trance, whether heavy or light, is a natural consequence of the relinquishment of human will.
Faced with emanations which obviously expressed
the personality of the medium, Sadler was forced to the hypothesis that
we were seeing products of the subconscious mind, with its "dissociations."
Thus he concluded that one part of the mind talking with another was the
explanation for the belief by the medium that he truly had talked with
But Sadler ran into evidence he could not adequately
explain. When a medium expressed knowledge of another person or event which
Sadler recognized should not have been available to that medium he resorted
to the hypothesis of telepathy, although he was not convinced of that explanation.
However, another possibility intrigued Sadler: that of Universal Mind.
To Sadler, the more abstract "Universal Mind" broadcasting events to the entire universe, as a radio transmitter broadcasts to the entire countryside, was far more appealing than the notion of a singular malevolent spirit, actually resident on this planet. Sadler had sufficient insight to recognize that a singular spirit would have had, by necessity, stupendous encyclopedic knowledge; otherwise he could not have exhibited such a wide range of information and familiarity with the hordes of human mortals who lived on this planet. Since that "spirit" could know all about the planet, and all the people living on it, in times past and in the present, and since it could enter as many mortal minds as opened themselves to him, the concept of a "Universal Mind" was a natural deduction.
Most persons with whom I have discussed this problem are unable to conceive that a singular spirit personality would have such powers, again contrary to traditional teachings on the power of God to know each of us intimately and personally. However, the advent of electronic storage, and of computers, has now opened vistas of concept that were not available to earlier generations. Hence it is easier for us to propose concepts that were beyond the intellectual range of Sadler's cultural environment.
If the "spirits" have personality, as The Urantia Papers so clearly teach us, and which should be obvious to us, they will demonstrate a desire for goals, and the power of choice. If, in their interests, they do not wish to communicate with the "scientific" skeptic, they may reserve their performances for "true believers," those they know they can delude.
For those who sincerely wish to establish communication with the "spirits" the technique is quite simple. All one need do is sit in a chair, close one's eyes, and say, "Spirit, talk with me." Of course, some persons do not have the "psychic" ability to communicate with the spirits. And the manner in which the contact may come is determined by that personality on the "other side." He may come and go, and perform his acts according to his discretion. Since Sadler did not grasp the reality of a "sordid" mischievous personality, his assignment of cause had to revert to "tricks of the human mind."
In his Mental Mischief and Emotional Conflicts
in 1947 he uses the same words and phrases he used in 1923. Sadler, and
many other psychologists and psychiatrists, were led to believe in mental
disassociation within the human mind by the performances observed under
hypnosis, Page 265:
I personally have witnessed just such demonstrations, as have many other people. The fact of a reservoir of knowledge in the subconscious that is unrecognized in the conscious mind, and the ability of a hypnotist to bring such performances, is without question.
However, on page 269, Sadler admits to the
possibility of spirits forces acting within the human mind:
Within this "naturalist" mental framework,
Sadler was forced to explain cases which went beyond his hypotheses. Ellen
White was one of those; the Sleeping Subject was another. But he would
admit to only those two cases. In The Mind At Mischief he states:
Here Sadler admits that there are cases which do not fall under his classifications as frauds or as products of the subconscious mind. There is a residue which defy such assignments. At this point he refers the reader to his Appendix to The Mind At Mischief.
On page 251 he again refers to unusual cases:
Again he refers the reader to the Appendix.
On page 260 he admits that:
Yet again he refers the reader to the Appendix.
In a fourth reference on page 331 he comes
closer to the thoughts he expresses in his Appendix:
Thus we can see that Sadler was torn between the possibility of real spirit entry into human mind, and "psychological" explanations. Because he never fully came to grips with the actual mechanisms of the phenomenon, and in the face of his adamant opposition to such performances, he opened himself to deception later in his life.
I shall now turn to examples of spiritualist phenomena which so repelled Sadler, yet which demonstrate their reality.
I shall also return in later chapters to modifications which later took place in Sadler's attitudes concerning the possibility of spirit communications, attitudes which introduced a serious threat to the revelation, and which repercuss yet to this day.
Through such study we can better recognize why The Urantia Papers were not channeled, and why Sadler spent so many years observing the Sleeping Subject. He truly had a phenomenon beyond his conceptual range, in spite of the presence at his fingertips of the knowledge necessary to come to a full understanding.
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