Various skeptics have put forward the names of a number of single authors who they think may have been responsible for the Urantia Papers. Among those suggestions are Dr W. S. Sadler, Wilfred Kellogg, Carl Jung, H.G. Wells, and Robert Millikan. I first read the book in response to a request to give an opinion on the claims by its author(s) for a revelatory status. My initial attitude was highly skeptical and my first reaction was that it must have been written by a group of well-meaning academics on a save-the-world mission.
Consistency As I became more familiar with the Papers, I was impressed by the consistency of their content. I had previously participated in the writing of two text books on science subjects in which a number of authors contributed chapters relevant to their particular specialties. Thus I had become aware of the extra difficulties involved in maintaining consistency when multiple authors contribute to the same work. This would have been particularly so for a 2000-page work, such as The Urantia Book, written at a time before computers, data bases, and search-and-find computer programs became available. The problem would have been infinitely greater if such a work was a product of the imagination rather than a collation of facts.
However, at this early stage of my interest in The Urantia Book, I was not prepared to suggest that this book was anything other than the work of human beings. Part 4, "The Life of Jesus," impressed me as being an outstanding exposition. For the remainder, I had noticed a number of statements, mainly on matters of science, that were remarkably prophetic if made in the mid-1930's. Some of these would even have been remarkable at the time of first publication of the book in 1955. So to my inquirers, I recommended that they take what they found valuable from its content and keep an open mind about its revelatory status.
Methodology for Determining Authorship
About 15 years later I came upon a book entitled The Computation of Style by Anthony Kenny that discussed various ways of checking on works in which authorship is in doubt—for example, the various epistles attributed to Paul in the New Testament. Some methods depended on the rate of occurrence of unusual words or phrases, others on statistical analysis of the length of sentences, or other characteristics that gave "style" to a particular author. The favored method, where it could be applied, was one used by Mosteller and Wallace that depended, not on unusual words and phrases, but on the way authors use common words to commence sentences or to join clauses and phrases. Such words were classed as "marker" and "function" words and included also, an, by, but, the, and, when, etc. Experience soon showed that unusual words were virtually useless for statistical purposes. It is the way authors habitually use frequently occurring words that best distinguishes one from another. While reading about the work of Mosteller and Wallace, I realized that the tools were already available to shed light on multiple authorship for the Urantia Papers. These tools were a data base for the book (Folio views), plus the means of transferring the text of the book to a word processor equipped to give word counts for individual papers. With these tools, it is relatively easy to obtain statistics on the number of sentences that commence with marker words and to quantify these in terms of word count.
The first investigation had the limited goal of deciding whether a single or multiple authors wrote the book. The results (Table 1) were printed in the Australian newsletter Six-O-Six, Vol. 13 (2), 1992 and indicated that there may have been in excess of nine authors. Later, my son, Paul, who has a Ph.D. in maths and statistics, suggested that a more rigorous investigation could be done for those authors to whom multiple papers were attributed. Such an analysis permitted the inclusion of estimates of variance both within and between authors. Five sets of four or more papers from five authors were chosen in which there was reasonable certainty that each set was attributable to the same author. The results for this investigation were printed in Six-O-Six, Vol 14 (3), 1993, and clearly distinguished between each of the five authors. Besides the data given in Table 2, a global likelihood ratio test in a logical regression analysis showed that for the marker word "And," the results indicated four or more authors at a probability level of 0.0003. For the marker word "The," three or more authors were indicated at a probability level of 0.0001.
|Word||Comparison Made||Probability of
|How||Part 4 and Parts 1,2,3||0.1|
|When||Part 4 and Parts 1,2,3||0.1|
|When||Divine Counselor and whole book||1.0|
|When||Life Carrier and whole book||1.0|
|When||Melchizedek and whole book||0.1|
|And||Foreword and Divine Counselor||0.1|
|And||Foreword and whole book||0.1|
|And||Foreword and Part I||1.0|
|And||Part 1 and whole book||0.1|
|And||Part 2 and whole book||0.1|
|And||Solitary Messenger and whole book||0.1|
|And||Solitary Messenger and Part 3||5.0|
|And||Part 4 and whole book||0.1|
|And||Part 4 and Parts 1,2,3||0.1|
|And||Part 4 and Parts 1,2,3||0.1|
|For||Life Carrier and Part 3||1.0|
|But||Part 3 and Parts 1,2,4||0.1|
|But||Life Carrier and Parts 1,2,4||1.0|
|But||Melchizedek and Parts 1,2,4||5.0|
|But||Solitary Messenger and Parts 1,2,4||0.1|
|But||Part 4 and Parts 1,2||0.1|
|But||Part 4 and Part 1||0.1|
|But||Part 4 and Part 2||0.1|
|But||Part 4 and Part 3||0.1|
|This||Foreword and whole book||1.0|
|This||Life Carrier and whole book||0.1|
|This||Foreword and Divine Counselor||0.1|
Table 1: A Comparison of Writing Styles in Different
Sections of The Urantia Book.
Word Comparison made Probability of Difference (%)
|Author||Brilliant Evening Star||Solonia||Chief of Seraphim||Archangel of Nebadon|
A or An, P=.001
|Chief of Seraphim||And, P=.05;
A or An, P=.001
A or An, P=.025;
|Archangel of Nebadon||And, P=.025;
A or An, P=.005;
|Perfector of Wisdom||And, P=.05;
A or An, P=.001
A or An, P=.05;
Table 2: The probabilities that pairs of authors of multiple Urantia Papers are different individuals as indicated by the frequency of distribution of sentences commencing with marker words: And; But; A or An; This; Many; It. All five authors are distinguishable from one another.
Was Dr Sadler an author?
For the first investigation, in addition to attempting to demonstrate multiple authorship, an effort was made to throw light on whether Dr Sadler may have been the single author postulated by others. The only work of Dr Sadler then available to me in Australia was a short essay entitled, "Evolution of the Soul," in which about half of the text was direct quotation from The Urantia Book. The essay was too short to use the Mosteller and Wallace methods. However, after separating The Urantia Book text from the remainder, the two sections were subjected to a computerized style analysis program that provided scores on the basis of sentence length, sentence structure, and the Flesch Reading Ease Index. Each of these characteristics differentiated two distinct writing styles at statistically significant levels, thus indicating that Dr Sadler was not the author of The Urantia Book. Quotations from that essay:
The investigation on the involvement of Dr Sadler in theauthorship of The Urantia Papers has come under some criticism on the basis of the small sample size of the essay, "Evolution of the Soul." Recently, courtesy of Dr Matt Neibaur, I have been provided with "The Mind at Mischief," a book published by Dr Sadler in 1929 that has permitted a more extensive investigation. I scanned a little more than fifty pages of this book, almost 20,000 words, into my computer, with which to test Dr Sadler's writing style against the data already accumulated for the Mosteller and Wallace type of investigation on authorship. The Sadler text material was converted into a FolioViews database, then tested against the data for those five Urantia Book authors accredited with multiple papers. From 37 tests, 35 distinguished between Dr Sadler and the Urantia Paper author at odds of 20 to 1 or better, 30 being at 100 to 1 or greater, and 14 being better than 1000 to 1. Only two of the tests failed to attain significance (less than 20 to 1).
The Urantia Book material quoted in Dr Sadler's aforementioned essay had been drawn from Papers 5, 110, and 111. Again using Mosteller and Wallace methodology, in two tests, the Mind at Mischief sample was compared with these Papers and showed significant differences at the 100 to 1 and 1000 to 1 levels. In his book "Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery," Martin Gardner offers the opinion that Dr Sadler wrote Part 4 of The Urantia Book. To check this suggestion, a further two tests were made of the "Mind at Mischief" material against Papers 195 and 196 from Part 4 of the book with the result that both tests showed significant differences at the 1000 to 1 probability level.
It is a fact that some of the same unusual words and expressions are to be found in both the writings of Dr Sadler and in the Urantia Papers. This is hardly surprising since Sadler admitted to being continuously exposed to the content of the various Urantia Papers, or their precursors, certainly since 1911 and possibly since 1906, long before the final drafts of the Papers were completed. I have been reading these papers for about twenty years, have an appalling memory for poetry, literature, quotations, etc., yet still find that some of the book's "peculiar" words and phrases have become my own. Many other readers have had the same experience. While the possibility of a degree of editing cannot be excluded, this statistical evidence rules out extensive authorship of the Papers by Dr Sadler.
Could a single human mind be the main source for the Urantia Papers?
The statistical evidence accumulated to date shows that any proposal that nominates a human source for the Urantia Papers must take multiple authorship into account. Matthew Block's investigations to uncover the human sources that the Papers themselves state have been utilized indicate that the actual authors have usually imposed their own styles in incorporating this material, and that the extent of quotation of contiguous material is such that it would have little effect on the statistical analysis reported herein.
There is no way that Gardner's proposal that the subconscious mind of a sleeping human subject was itself the source of the textual material of the Urantia Papers can be reconciled with the statistical evidence presented. The evidence is consistent with many different authors having been heavily involved in the writing of the Urantia Papers, probably far more than the minimum of about nine suggested by this investigation. Neither is the hypothesis of very extensive editing by Dr Sadler and others consistent with these findings.
This work does not rule out the involvement of a substantial committee of well qualified and erudite people as the real authors. But if there was such a committee, it becomes necessary to account for the truly remarkable consistency of this 2000 page work, plus the fact that extensive investigations by Gardner and others have failed to uncover the slightest hint of such involvement, nor to explain how total secrecy could have been maintained. I leave the readers of the Papers to draw their own conclusions.
References. Anthony Kenny (1982), The Computation of Style (Pergamon Press Ltd) Mosteller, F. and D.L. Wallace (1984), Applied Bayesian and Classical Inference. The Case of the Federalist Papers (Springer Verlag, N.Y.)
One purpose of this review has been to demonstrate that the compilation of the Urantia Papers required an enormous input of scholarly research on the part of their authors. Furthermore, the masterful presentation of the Papers indicates a degree of literary skill normally gained only through much toil and long experience. Therefore the hypothesis put forward by Martin Gardner that the Papers were the product of the subconscious mind of Wilfred Kellogg, a person acknowledged by Gardner to have been devoid of writing skills, is inconsistent. Gardner also proposed a high degree of editing by Dr Sadler. The statistical investigation using writing style analysis presented herein provided strong evidence that Dr Sadler was not an author, though a small editorial contribution by him is not excluded. Sadler, of course, consistently denied any editorial involvement.
A secret society?
An alternative possibility is that a group of erudite scholars secretly compiled the Papers in collusion with Dr Sadler and associates. While this cannot be ruled out by direct evidence, there is considerable, contrary circumstantial evidence. For example, there has been a total failure to uncover any believable suggestions about who any of these people might be. Nor have any members of their families ever come forward to suggest participation by such a group. Evidence against the hypothesis is contained within the textual content of the Papers. Such a group of scholars must have had a motive. What could it have been?
That monetary gain was not the motive to write the Papers is demonstrated by the history of their publication and marketing. That fame was not the motive to write them is demonstrated not only by the secrecy surrounding their writing but also by the fact that no name has ever been associated with their production.
It may have been that a group of honest, deeply concerned people who were fearful about the future of mankind wrote the Papers in an attempt to redirect human societies along saner pathways of development. Perhaps the group were all intensely forward-looking and Christian in their beliefs. That would certainly be consistent with the textual content of the Papers. These people may have considered that their portrayal of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, as presented in the Papers, had some chance of becoming the basis of an all-embracing religion.
The end justifies the means?
If the Urantia Papers were the invention of the minds of such a group then a number of anomalies present themselves. All of its members would have known that the subject matter of the text was largely fabrication and that the manner of its presentation was deceitful. Their justification for such an action would have to have been similar to that of other well-intentioned men and women from history—that it is logically possible to pursue an altruistic end via dishonest and deceitful means. Taken to its extreme, as it has been in many instances in the history of mankind, this concept embraces the idea that a desirable end justifies the use of all possible means for its attainment. There is no hint in the content of the Urantia Papers that their real authors would have condoned false, deceitful, dishonest, or unethical means to attain even a desirable goal. In many places in the Papers, statements are to be found suggesting that the justification for any act must be judged by its motivation. But nowhere in the Papers is it ever implied that such motivation can be the sole reason for making that judgment. On the contrary, we find statements such as:
"Moral acts are those human performances which are characterized by the highest intelligence, directed by discrimination in the choice of superior ends as well as in the selection of moral means to attain these ends." (193) And, "Virtue is righteousness—conformity with the cosmos. To name virtues is not to define them, but to live them is to know them. Virtue is not mere knowledge nor yet wisdom but the reality of progressive experience in the attainment of ascending levels of cosmic achievement. In the day-by-day life of mortal man virtue is realized by the consistent choosing of good rather than evil, and such choosing ability is evidence of the possession of a moral nature." (193)
Is it possible for people who hold the supremely altruistic views that unfold in the Urantia Papers to, at the same time, be dishonest deceivers? What kind of thoughts might have motivated such a group? Perhaps they were in a hurry to save the world before it destroyed itself. If this were so, why then did they repeatedly expound upon the virtues of slow social development via evolution? And why did they condemn the actions of those involved in the Lucifer rebellion and the Adamic default, both of which claimed the motive of speeding up progress of the human races?
The Urantia Papers repeatedly inform us that ambitions of men must always be subordinated to the unknowable ways and purposes of God. The whole of Part 4 is devoted to the theme that the actions and decisions of Jesus, as he went about his daily tasks, were on a moment by moment basis in compliance with the will of the Father. Nowhere do the Papers inform us that Jesus made plans whereby he took the responsibility for the success of his mission upon himself. Always, so the authors of the Papers tells us, Jesus went to enormous lengths to discover the will of the Father before he committed himself to a course of action. So how do our hypothetical authors justify their own action in taking it upon themselves to modify the course of human progress? Could they really claim to be submitting to the will of God by following a policy of serving up a package of what, in these hypothetical circumstances, would have been falsehood to those they ostensibly desired to save? If so, then again they have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to preach one thing while practicing another. The God they portray in the Urantia Papers would never condone such action. Such behavior is both inconsistent, irrational, and amoral. Whatever else they may be, these Papers are not the product of devious, twisted minds.
What then can we conclude from this survey?
Only that we do not have a sensible, rational proposal about human authorship of the Papers. But any conclusion claiming other-than-human authorship is unprovable. As the Papers themselves tell us—our personal decision must be an act of faith. That is the way it is meant to be. For me personally, I find that the spiritual content of the Urantia Papers makes them self-authenticating. Ken Glasziou
The acceptance of a teaching as true is not faith; that is mere belief.
Belief has attained the level of faith when it motivates life and shapes
the mode of living. (1114)
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The Urantia Book Fellowship