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The Mystery of the "Urantia Book"

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

In the early 1900s, William Sadler, a surgeon, self-styled psychiatrist[1], and author of many horrific racist rants, dedicated much of his free time to debunking psychics and mediums, regarding them as charlatans providing messages of false comfort to those seeking messages from deceased loved ones. After the influx of deceased loved ones that was World War I, he doubled down on his efforts, employing the help of other skeptics to investigate psychic mediums. In 1929, he published a book detailing mediumship fraud entitled The Mind at Mischief.

In an appendix of The Mind at Mischief, Sadler revealed that he’d encountered only two cases of paranormal phenomena that he’d been unable to satisfactorily explain; one of them, the circumstances surrounding the authorship of The Urantia Book, remains mysterious to this day, although some have argued that Sadler himself is responsible for the book’s material, purportedly received via psychic means.

The Urantia Book is a fringe spiritual text comprising over 2,000 pages of material said to have been communicated by various celestial beings through one unidentified man, who received the communications during episodes of deep sleep-like states. The story goes that this man’s wife approached Sadler for help with her husband’s unresponsive state in 1911, and Sadler and other members of his study group, intrigued, observed the man during hundreds of such episodes, asking the extra-planetary entities questions and compiling the thousands of pages of esoteric answers the beings transmitted in reply.

This man, reportedly used as a “clearing-house” for celestial beings without his knowledge or consent, has never been named, though he has been roughly characterized as a no-nonsense logical-minded businessman: the antithesis of what one might picture when imagining a vessel for new-age knowledge. Sadler and other proponents of Urantia claim that the man remains anonymous to avoid veneration of the messenger, rather than the message – is this an admirable and humble impulse, or an effort by Sadler to cover up his own involvement in the text’s genesis?

Among proponents of the latter claim is Martin Garner, an avid skeptic and critic of fringe science and spirituality, who put forth the theory that a man named Wilfred Kellogg, a relative of Sadler’s, was in fact the mysterious conduit, and that Sadler edited and in some cases added to writings that were generated by Kellogg’s subconscious, not by living celestial personalities. Reportedly, stylometric analyses of the text and of Sadler’s known work have suggested that at least 9 discrete people authored the Urantia book, with Sadler not being among them, but sources to back up these claims are scant and not peer-reviewed.

Sadler died in 1969, and many other members of the spiritual study group privy to the “sleeping subject’s” identity have also likely passed on; we may never know the whole story behind this mysterious text.

As paranormal investigators, we are obligated to walk the complicated line between skepticism and absolute faith, guided by a sincere desire to find the truth, regardless of the implications the truth may have for our personal belief systems. Though many of Sadler’s views and actions were reprehensible and not in line with our values, he did have one thing in common with our team: he was able to put aside his identity as an avowed skeptic in order to admit that he’d encountered something he couldn’t explain (whether he did this as a ploy for publicity/personal gain is another story).

In our work, we will not be swayed by pride or personal ideology when assessing the paranormal phenomena our clients report. If your husband starts receiving communications from unknown entities, give us a call.

[1]Shockingly, getting an MD and then deciding later that you’d like to specialize in something you are not board-certified in was not only legal then, it’s still legal today! The risk (to the practitioner; the risks to patients are of course myriad) is not that it’s illegal, but rather that it’s hard to fight a malpractice suit if you can’t argue that you received the proper training!

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