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The Religious Affiliation of
Dr. William S. Sadler
Influential Physician and Founding Urantian


William S. Sadler (1875-1969) was a nationally prominent physician, psychiatrist, professor, and author of 42 books. Dr. Sadler was an ordained Seventh-day Adventist who taught Exegetical Theology at the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary in San Francisco. He later left the Seventh-day Adventist Church and became the key figure in the bringing forth and subsequent dissemination of the Urantia Book.

William S. Sadler was an interesting figure in the way that he was so important in two normally separate fields. He was a major figure in American medical history; his actions permanently changed the American Medical Association. He was also the most important person in the appearance of a widely disseminated new religious text - the Urantia Book - and in the formation of an entirely new religious movement built around that book.

From: Meredith Sprunger, "A Short Biographical Sketch of Dr. William S. Sadler", written 18 December 1989, posted on the Urantia Book Fellowship website (http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/history/doc058.htm; viewed 23 October 2005):

It was my good fortune to know Dr. William S. Sadler as a personal friend and colleague for more than a decade in the early days of the dissemination of the teachings of The Urantia Book and I was honored to serve as the officiating minister at his Memorial Service. 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 experience throughout life was in many ways unique, preparing him to serve as a pioneer in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and religion. As a boy he was not allowed to attend public school, after the death of his sister, because his parents were afraid he too might catch a communicable disease. Thus, he received most of his formal education from his parents, tutors, and through his own initiative.

While living in Wabash, Indiana, he spent much time listening to a relative, General McNaught, one time chief of scouts to General U. S. Grant, tell stories about the Civil War. Further exposure to history came from the library of General Lew Wallace, a close neighbor, who at the time was writing Ben Hur. Very early Sadler exhibited public speaking abilities. His first formal speech was given at the age of eight when he addressed a high school commencement in Indianapolis on "The Crucial Battles of History."

At fourteen he left home and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan where he started working at the renowned Battle Creek Sanitarium headed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Here, before and after work, he attended Battle Creek College and organized a group of students to study rhetoric and Latin. During a visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana the minister of a Christian Church discovered his remarkable knowledge of the Bible and speaking ability and asked him to supply his pulpit during a two week vacation. His preaching was so effective he received many letters of commendation and the local newspaper, referring to his unusual abilities, called him "the boy preacher." When Dr. Kellogg's brother, William K. Kellogg, began manufacturing health foods Sadler was employed as a salesman to grocery stores. He was so successful the factory had trouble keeping up with his orders.

In 1895 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Chicago Medical Mission, sent Sadler to Chicago as director of the Medical Mission. Here Sadler was engaged in teaching, speaking, and working with "skidrow" people. He initiated and edited a magazine which reached a circulation of 150,000 copies and managed a large financial budget. While carrying this heavy work schedule, Sadler also took training at the Moody Bible Institute and graduated with the highest grades in the history of the school.

Young Sadler sought training in speech at the University of Chicago and a lady professor after hearing his first speech said, "Get out of here. I can't teach you anything. You're very bad; your gestures are atrocious, but you are so effective I wouldn't change anything about you. I'll ruin you if I change you." Many years later when Dr. Sadler delivered a commencement address at the University of Chicago, she came up afterwards and said, "You're just as bad as ever, but so damn effective. You can just hold an audience spellbound; I'm so glad that we didn't change you."

Following his marriage to Leona Kellogg and the death of their first child, both Sadlers enrolled in the Cooper Medical College at San Francisco. While in medical school Sadler was asked to teach Exegetical Theology at the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary in San Francisco. In order to teach, he was required to be ordained in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Later Sadler financed their medical training in special detective work. Because of his daring and successful exploits as an investigator, he was offered the top executive position in the government agency which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After graduation from medical school the Sadlers began their medical practice together. Over the years many people and organizations sought Dr. Sadler's organizational ability. He became a leading figure in the popularization of preventive medicine in the country. In 1911 he gave up surgery to enter into psychiatry and went to Europe to study under Freud.

Dr. Sadler served as a professor in the Post Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Chicago and taught a course in Pastoral Counseling at MeCormiek Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. He was a popular lecturer at Lyceum and Chautauqua meetings and authored forty-two books and many magazine and journal articles.

Although Dr. Sadler had an outstanding career as a physician, teacher, speaker, and writer, he considered his most important contribution to our world was his leadership of a little known group called "The Forum" which received the Urantia Papers and published The Urantia Book.

From: G. Vonne Meussling, "William S. Sadler: Chautauqua's Medic Orator" (Excerpt from A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate School of Bowling Green State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, December 1970) on the Urantia Book Fellowship website (http://www.ubfellowship.org/archive/history/sadlbio1.htm):
This study of William S. Sadler (1875-1969), physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, professor, and author of forty-two books, investigates that phase of his career devoted to oratory. It concentrates upon the period 1905 to 1926 when he was a popular lecturer on Chautauqua platforms. It traces the influences which molded his public speaking interest from a high school commencement address delivered at the age of eight to the decision to become a public lecturer. This was unprecedented in an era when concepts of the American Medical Association did not permit doctors to advertise. He was a student of Sigmund Freud, an associate of Alfred Adler, Karl Jung and John Harvey Kellogg. These associations were evidenced as influential factors in his career.

The purpose of this study was to analyze rhetorically those elements of Sadler's speeches on preventive medicine which governed his oral contributions. His message focused on the education of the masses so as to counteract public ignorance, medical quackery, and harmful patent remedies. The study revealed that audiences were eager for authentic health information.

Sadler had no published biography; however, the writer had access to his personal papers and books. Letters attesting to his popularity as a speaker were found in Special Collections at the University of Iowa. Early speeches were discovered at The John Crerar Library in Chicago.

Sadler would not be classified as a great orator; yet, he gained audience appeal through a unique style and implementation of histrionics and humor...

William Samuel Sadler was born in Spencer, Indiana, to Samuel Cavins Sadler and Sarah Isabelle (Wilson) Sadler on June 24, 1875. His father was a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory of Music; he was a teacher and a performer.

...while searching through the attic when he [William S. Sadler] was twelve, he found an old Bible. Thinking about the old deserted church across the tracks from his house, he called his baseball buddies together and for several afternoons they "played church," i.e. , his gang was the audience and he was the speaker. This small beginning of preaching in a vacated pulpit had its reverberations as he continued to prepare himself for a career of public speaking...

At the age of fourteen, Sadler left his home in Wabash, Indiana, and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. He worked as a bell boy in the world renowned Battle Creek Sanitarium headed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg [a famous Seventh-day Adventist] and attended Battle Creek College. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was influential in molding the lives of many young people "In those days he did much toward giving needed counsel, direction, and even financial assistance to . . . young men who were struggling to get ahead." Kellogg was to have more than a passing influence on the life of Sadler...

During this time when he was sixteen and was visiting a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the minister extended an open invitation to the laity to speak; Sadler impulsively accepted the opportunity. After church the minister called him into his study and inquired concerning his knowledge of the Bible. The minister was planning a two-week vacation; he asked Sadler to preach for him during his absence. Sadler was eager to speak and for two weeks he preached both morning and evening sermons. He received letters of commendation concerning these efforts; a local newspaper called him "the boy preacher." His preaching as a boy possibly led to his later decision to enter the ministry.

On March 7, 1899, he became a licensed minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and in 1901 he became an ordained minister.

However, he rarely revealed this facet of his career to his closest associates. In his youth, Sadler did not remain with one career for long; he adapted to new situations easily and was willing to apply his energies to new tasks...

While Sadler was working with the Chicago Medical Mission, Dr. Kellogg felt it necessary that he receive more evangelistic instruction. He therefore enrolled as a special student at Moody Bible Institute.

In 1897, Sadler married Lena Kellogg, the niece of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In 1899 their first son was born, but lived only nine months. While comforting his wife, Sadler said, "You can have another baby, and perhaps in the meantime since you have always wanted to do it, we can study medicine."

They entered Cooper Medical College in San Francisco in 1901. While at Cooper they earned their room and board by operating a home for Christian medical students...

While finishing his medical work, Sadler paid his expenses by lecturing and by special detective work.

Again, he demonstrated a talent for this type of activity. Largely through his services, a wide-scale situation of graft in Chicago politics was exposed.16 Many years later, he reflected how this work had almost led him into an entirely different career than the one he followed. He had been offered an executive position in the governmental intelligence organization which eventually was to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation...

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who was interested in the Hull House social service center, founded in Chicago by Jane Addams, invited Sadler to work with this project; however, because Sadler felt that physical health could not be taught separate from spiritual health, their association never actualized.

Sadler believed that the laity was passing through a period of popular reaction against the scientific materialism of the last century. "The common people are awaking to the fact that the mental state has much to do with bodily health and disease."

...Eventually Sadler gave up surgery and entered into psychiatry full time. In 1911 he went to Europe to study under Freud. Although he respected Freud, he rejected his notion of fixed symbols.

"Now, I don't mean by this that I am a believer in all the non-sense that has been put out under the guise of modern Freudian philosophy. When I have a patient who has a sex worry, I find the Freudian system very helpful in trying to get at the bottom of the thing and helping them over their trouble; but when it comes to the belief that all forms of worry, tension and nerves are of a sex origin, then I dissent . While we all recognize much that is valuable in Freud's teaching, it should be stated that he has not convinced the majority of psychologists and psychotherapists that all nervous disorders have a sex origin. We recognize that there are other human instincts and impulses just as strong as the sex urge. First of all there comes the instinct to live, to get food, and then, in many individuals, the religious emotion is very powerful, so that we cannot accept the Freudian doctrine that all our nervous troubles are due to suppression of the emotions and further that the particular emotion suppressed that is responsible for the trouble is the sex emotion."

...In 1911, Sadler began giving public addresses concerning the various phases of the phenomena and philosophy of spiritualism. He had had many patients under his professional care who had been clairvoyants, mediums' trance talkers, psychics, and sensitives. Due to the great interest factor pertaining to spiritualism following the war, A. C. McClurg and Company, his publishers, asked Sadler to prepare the manuscript of his lecture for publication.

Sadler had an unusual interest in the spiritualism phenomenon.

At one time he worked with Howard Thurston, the magician, in the exposure of frauds, fakes, and mediums in the Chicago area.

It is not the intention of this paper to make the claim that Sadler was solely responsible for major changes in the American Medical Association or in the attitudes of the lay public toward medicine and medical practitioners. It may well be that such changes were forthcoming by the very nature of the social structure and dynamic institutions which were contributing to the evolutionary movement of American society. Certainly, in his own mind, and in the opinions of many who knew him, he had had a role of more than average significance. That change was occurring is attested to in statements found in the Index and Digest of Official Actions, published by the American Medical Association, where a record of a 1914 report mentions:

Of late years the American Medical Association, through its Council on Health and Public Instruction has endeavored to spread broadcast knowledge of preventive medicine and public hygiene. It has endeavored to educate the public to an appreciation of what physicians and surgeons are doing and what are their aims and ideals in medicine. This has aroused a widespread interest in the public mind, and the public press has eagerly seized on this propaganda as news which interests its readers and which is, therefore, something to be sought and published. This has been legitimate work of public benefit and for the public good, and no one questions that it should be highly commended.

Certain newspapers have heralded this stepping over the limits of the former strict adherence of the profession to its non-advertising principles as something laudatory and much to be desired.

Although this change had taken place, the American Medical Association was still persistent in its efforts to prevent the abuse which this new freedom could possibly give birth to.

Sadler's position followed the logic that people were going to get their information from other sources less authentic and reliable; therefore, it was the responsibility of capable authorities to provide them with the correct inclination:

". . . I myself am tempted to feel that it might be better to shut up like a clam and make an end of all this effort to instruct the layman, but my better judgment admonishes me that this is not the solution of the problem. Whether it pertains to science, philosophy, or religion, if a little knowledge is dangerous and the public already has this deleterious minimum of information, then there is but one solution of the problem--competent teachers must step into the picture and give the layman sufficient authentic information to take the danger out of the little knowledge he has."

...Sadler was no ordinary man or he could not have endured the pace in which he lived. Not only was he a surgeon and a psychiatrist, but he was a professor at the Post graduate medical school of Chicago, professor of pastoral Psychiatry, at McCormick Theological Seminary, and a staff member of Columbus Hospital. He held memberships in the following associations: Life Fellow American College of Surgeons, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the American Medical Association, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Member of American Psycho-Pathological Association, Member of Illinois Psychiatric Association, The Chicago Society for Personality. Study, The Chicago Medical Society, The Illinois State Medical Society, Board Member, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, The Eugene Field Society, International Mark Twain Society, National Association of Authors and Journalists, Founder Member, Gorgas Memorial Institute in Tropical and Pr! eventive Medicine, and member of its governing board. Involvement in these institutions and their activities undoubtedly required effort; however, Sadler had a desire to extend his talents to the Lyceum and Chautauqua platform.

From: Vic Lloyd, review of URANTIA: The Great Cult Mystery (written by Martin Gardner, published by Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 1995); review posted on "Manussa: A Secular Rationalist Humanist Page", website of The Manussa Group (http://www.uq.net.au/slsoc/manussa/qh33_2_8.htm; page viewed via Archive.org as it appeared 1 January 2003):
Martin Gardner is a science writer, and members might have read his articles in Scientific American and the unusual novel The Flight of Peter Fromm... He takes on the task of examining the origins of the enormous [URANTIA] book (allegedly over a million words) to determine who among the ex-Seventh-day Adventists compiled it, and its effects on the small but world-wide group of true believers who still proclaim that it is far more important than the Jewish and Christian Bible, and the Koran. Gardner refers to it as "an incredibly detailed mix of science, ethics, politics and polytheology", and ascribed its creation to the two men most responsible for it, "two ex-seventh-day Adventists, Dr William Samuel Sadler (1875-1969), a famous Chicago psychiatrist, and his brother-in-law Wilfred Custer Kellogg (1876-1956), a painfully shy, self effacing neurotic businessman." We all are familiar with the second name as the product of Kelloggs is a household word in this country as it is in America, and the Sanitarium Health Foods which help to finance the Seventh-day Adventist movement finds clients throughout our communities. Wilfred's father, Dr John Harvey Kellog ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and was one of the country's most prominent leaders in the church. His brother William Kellogg was the founder of the Kellogg Cornflake Company. The Sadler family, who became converts [to Seventh-day Adventism] after the death of a daughter, sent William Sadler to the Adventists Battle Creek College. He worked for the Doctor and later studied medicine, managing several church charity works for John Kellogg. Later, both began to challenge the "testimonies" of Sister Ellen White, where once they had believed that her books and preachings were divinely inspired. Both men were disturbed when they realised...

About 1906, Dr John Kellogg was excommunicated and Sadler left the Seventh-day Adventist church. Sadler joined the Kellogg family, as it were, by marrying the sister of Wilfred Kellogg's wife, and both he and his new wife graduated as doctors about this time. However a few years later, Sadler gave up surgery and studied psychiatry, becoming a prolific writer of books and heading an Institute in Chicago. The families lived close together, the book Urantia was published in 1955, the result of the work of a dedicated and devout Christian group under the guidance and direction of Dr William Sadler, who, it is claimed, supervised and edited the messages channelled from the supernatural angelic staff of heaven through the "sleeper", Wilfred Kellogg, messages that brought the entire and true story of the history of the world and the mind of God, particularly the authentic story of Jesus which was to be disseminated to the world. This work was seems to have begun around 1906, and culminated in the publication of the Urantia Book in 1955. By then the group had grown considerably, and a Foundation financed the publication...

The influence of [the religious group surrounding the Urantial Book] at present is not widespread, but it appears to have ample funds to continue on after the death of its leader Dr William Sadler in 1969 and a dedicated Committee to continue the work...

Sadler himself often exposed fraudulent spiritualists and people claiming visions where he found them impinging on his domain. In relation to the visions of Ellen White, however, he supported her contacts with the divine and scorned any criticism of the Adventist beliefs. His break with all this caused him much pain but he embraced the concept of Urantia as a future for the earth and the transmission of Truth through the channelling of messages from God and his heirarchy of angels through a sleeping medium, with more fervour than ever...

The trouble with the written word, as those who insist on the literal truth of Bibles find, time alters the context in which things are defined, and despite efforts to amend texts to say something different when the world changes to embrace new knowledge, the original text cannot be totally removed. Dr Sadler and his wife, for example, because of their extreme views on eugenics, became convinced of the inequality of the races, and were distinctly embarrassed to find that Hitler's views mirrored those of the Urantian God and his angels in relation to selective breeding, which could remove the inferior species.

From: "Dr. William S. Sadler: A Self-made Renaissance Man", published in Pervaded Space (a Chicago Area Newsletter), Spring, 1979, posted on the Urantial Book Fellowship website (http://www.urantiabook.org/mullinshistory/renaissance_man.htm; viewed 23 October 2005):
Most students of The URANTIA Book are aware of the significance of the name of D. William S. Sadler with regard to the history of the movement. But many perhaps do not realize that Dr. Sadler had led a widely varied and fascinating life before ever coming in contact with the teachings.

Born in Spencer, Indians June 14th, 1987, Dr. Sadler spent the next 93 years in a variety of pursuits. His invariably successful careers included those of surgeon, psychiatrist, teacher, lecturer, salesman and writer.

William's family moved a great deal around Indiana when he was young, as his father, Samuel Cavins Sadler, went from teaching music to being in the mercantile business, (William was at times put in charge of his father's general stores) to selling Bibles.

While growing up in Indiana, William was taught history by General McNaught, one-time Chief of Scouts to General U. S. Grant. McNaught arranged for William to give his first lecture at the age of eight, on "Crucial Battles of History", to a high school graduating class in Indianapolis.

Since the Sadlers lived across the street from author Lew Wallace, the boy would go lie on the floor of Wallace's library, reading history books while the author wrote Ben Hur. This kind of self-education was the pattern of Sadler's life, which contained virtually no formal education, since his mother did not want him to go to school for fear of what might happen.

His first taste of religion was also self-acquired. William's parents were set against religion; William did not discover the Bible until he was 12. But soon he was preaching in a nearby vacant church to friends of his with whom he played baseball. (He also played baseball in a five-county league that included Billy Sunday, who would become a famous evangelist.)

William's mother, Sarah Isabelle (Wilson), had secretly joined a Christian church after one of two twin daughters had died. Soon the family became interested in Seventh Day Adventist literature, as well as studying the Bible. Finally, his parents were baptized and joined the Adventist church. Eventually, Cavins Sadler became known as one of the great Bible salesmen of a day when there were many.

When he was 14, William went to Battle Creek, Michigan, to work as a bellboy at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The superintendent was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, brother of W. K. Kellogg, who was chiefly responsible for starting the Kellogg's cereal empire, and uncle of Lena Kellogg who was later to become William's wife.

In 1893, the Sanitarium began the manufacture of health foods. "Willie" was chosen to represent the Sanitarium at stores around the Midwest. He was eminently successful, at times even selling more food than could be produced; once he even won a bread-baking contest at a local store.

Lena Kellogg was a student nurse when she met William in 1893. They were married in 1894, beginning a long personal and working career together. A few years later, their first son died at the age of 10 months. The Sadlers decided to go to medical school. They went to different schools throughout the country, finally graduating from Rush Medical University of Chicago. For William, except for three months, medical school was his first formal education. William and Lena were partners both as doctors and authors while living in the Chicago area.

After several years as a general surgeon, Dr. Sadler said, "After taking out 10 gall-bladders, there wasn't much charm left. But minds are all different." So he resolved to become a psychiatrist, passing an exam.

He spent nearly a year in Vienna, studying with Freud, along with Adler and Jung, but he could not accept all that he learned there, leaving to form what he termed as the school of "American Psychiatry."

Dr. Sadler lived and practiced psychiatry for many years at 533 Diversey Parkway, Chicago, in the building that is now URANTIA headquarters. He also was a professor and lecturer of pastoral psychiatry at McCormick Theological Seminary, director and chief psychiatrist at the Chicago Institute of Research and Diagnosis, and attending psychiatrist at Columbus Hospital. He never really retired; he said that his patients retired him.

Dr. Sadler, who was described in International Who's Who as a "pioneer in the popularization of preventive medicine", wrote 42 books on various subjects. Among them were The Mind at Mischief, a bestseller, and Theory and Practice of Psychiatry, long a major text in psychiatric schools.

The Sadlers were married nearly 42 years before Lena's death in 1939. According to E. L. Christensen, their adopted daughter, "They worked together in everything. I never met a nicer couple." The Sadlers had another son, Bill, who among other things was the first president of URANTIA Brotherhood. Dr. Sadler was survived by three grandchildren.

The Forum, the original group to study the URANTIA Papers, evolved from one of the many groups organized by Dr. Sadler during his life for the study of a wide variety of topics. During the last portion of his long life, the study and teaching of The URANTIA Book was a most important pursuit.

For those that knew him, Dr. William S. Sadler was an individual impossible to forget.

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