EXPOSING THE LOSS OF
THE INVIOLATE TEXT OF THE URANTIA PAPERS
-By Larry Mullins
Were the INSTRUCTIONS of the REVELATORS CLEAR?
"The Papers were published just
as we received them. The contact commission had no editorial authority. Our job
was limited to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation."
(From HISTORY OF THE URANTIA MOVEMENT, submitted by the Urantia Foundation into the court records.)
ONLY ONE EDITION OF THE Urantia Book kept faith with the admonitions of the Revelators cited above -- the 1955 printing. This was the only Urantia Book ever printed from the original, unaltered plates. These plates, which are described by the cited history as the "basis for the creation of Urantia Foundation," were ordered destroyed in 1971, less than two years after the death of Dr. Sadler.
A VALIANT EFFORT AT PERFECTION
Beyond question, it was the desire of
all the mortals associated with the Urantia Papers to publish a perfect book in
1955. The type had been set years before, and great care had been taken to
proof-read the text, and correct typographical errors. Sometime prior to 1950
-- after the contact commission was convinced that the text was flawless -- the
plates were cast. Then, printed pages, (the final proofs made from the plates,)
were carefully studied for many years by the Forum, the contact commission, and
by the 'Seventy' -- a devoted group of advanced students from the Forum.
After two copies of the original materialized text had been typed, and the typed version checked by the contact commission, the originals were destroyed. Likewise, the typed text itself was destroyed after the Papers had been typeset, proofed, checked and rechecked countless times. Subsequent events indicate that the Revelators were probably not permitted to step in to assist the human efforts to achieve a faultless printed text, or even to point out any errors that the humans may have made in the various copying stages the text went through before it was set into type. The Revelation had entered the evolutionary mainstream. On the other hand, it seems the Revelators were satisfied that the final typeset text was very close to the desired product, else they would surely have aborted the project.
Clyde Bedell, a Forum member since 1926, wrote that all assistance and advice from the Revelators ended when they 'signed off' after the 1955 book was printed, with a final terse statement: "You are now on your own."
Imagine the horror of the devoted pioneers when they discovered -- after the Urantia Book was printed -- that there were errors in the text!
FATEFUL DECISIONS ARE CONFRONTED
A decade passed. Readers continued to
report mistakes, and possible mistakes. New faces were appearing now in the inner
circle of Urantia Foundation. A number of pivotal decisions now confronted this
inner circle, as the need for a new printing was emerging. Do we correct the
errors that have been discovered? What do we tell the world if we do? Should we
admit that the errors must have been overlooked, year after year, before the
book was printed? What do we do with the plates, which are the 'basis for the
creation of Urantia Foundation?' Do we change them, or make new plates to
replace the ones that contain mistakes? Do we tell the Trustees of Urantia
Foundation what we are doing?
By 1991 Urantia Foundation finally modified their longstanding policy of secrecy about the changes and declared that "fewer than ten" changes were made in later printings that "might be considered more than minor corrections." They further assured readers that these changes had been made "by those very individuals who were given the responsibility of preparing the original text for publication."
However, this assurance flies in the face of the facts. It was different mortals, with new agendas -- NOT the contact commissioners -- who were exerting de facto control of the Urantia Papers at the time of the second printing.
WHO MADE THE CHANGES -- REALLY?
The contact commission, as a team,
produced the 1955 edition of The Urantia Book. They made only spelling,
capitalization, and punctuation changes. The contact commission fulfilled their
'sacred oaths' and gave the world as inviolate a text as it was within the
powers of human beings to achieve. By the time of the second printing in 1967,
only two of those who constituted the contact commission were still living.
(The names of the contact commission are disclosed in evidence submitted by the
Urantia Foundation). Four contact commissioners were gone: Lena
Sadler, Wilfred and Anna Kellogg had long passed on, and Bill Sadler, Jr. had
died in 1963.) Dr. Sadler was over ninety years old in 1967, was not a Trustee,
and was failing.
The only other living member of the contact commission was Emma Christensen, (Christy).
Christy was nearly eighty at the time of the second printing, and she strongly relied upon the judgment and advice of aggressive, younger personalities who had penetrated the inner nucleus of the movement, of which Christy was the epicenter. (Although Christy was a founding member of Urantia Foundation in 1950, and remained a trustee until 1971, all of the other trustees -- including the president -- were not necessarily privy to the text changes in 1967, as we shall see.)
Something had to be decided by the forceful inner circle personalities before the second printing. In hindsight, a good solution would probably have been the standard academic practice of footnoting the pages and acknowledging the actual text errors, or to reference a questionable passage in an Appendix in the back of the book.
Instead, at this critical juncture, a series of expedient decisions were made by those who had assumed responsibility for usurping the trustees' sacred oath to preserve the inviolate text of the Urantia Papers. These decisions would begin with the "shadow of the hair's turning" -- the tiny "perversion of that which is principle" -- and would ultimately culminate in the very quiet order by Urantia Foundation to destroy the plates themselves, on May 6, 1971. (When this destruction became known, Urantia Foundation explained the act away with the position that modern technology had made the plates obsolete. However, objections persist to this day because the "History of the Urantia Movement" (1960) submitted by Urantia Foundation during litigation states: "It was those plates which constituted the basis for the formation of Urantia Foundation." So it was that in 1971 Urantia Foundation ordered the destruction of the property that was the "basis for" its own formation!)
THE FATAL DECISIONS ARE MADE
The first error in judgment by the
secretive inner circle was to discount the cautions of the Revelators, and to
physically change the plates and alter the text. The second error was, perhaps,
of greater magnitude. It was the decision to brush aside human tradition --
especially as it applies to non authors who presume to change another's work.
It was decided not to footnote or appendix the editorial changes that were
deemed necessary. The third unfortunate decision compounded the damage of the
other two: it was determined best not to inform all the trustees, and to
stonewall the readership, by denying any editorial changes had been made. It
must be conceded that these dramatic decisions seemed to work, for the short
term. Almost no one noticed the changes. As explained, all the Trustees were
not aware of the "corrections." One of the early Trustees who had
served as a president of Urantia Foundation declared, a few years before his
death: "They only made one change, and I made them change it back."
Yet, when he made that statement, dozens and dozens of changes had been made in
the text, including actual editorial changes!
Decades would go by before astonished scholars, using computers, would compare various printings of The Urantia Book and discover over 140 changes, including the "ten or so" that were "more than minor changes."
The disturbing truth cannot be ignored: the text of The Urantia Book is no longer inviolate.
The consequences that were set into motion by three, perhaps well-intended but dreadfully short-sighted, decisions now became clear. These decisions could possibly have led to the destruction of the Fifth Epochal Revelation.
IGNORING THE REVELATORS' CAUTIONS
Reader-believers who say that
"the text is close enough," or the "changes have been
minor," may not be considering the larger perspective of the long term
success of the Revelation. Perhaps the specific changes to date are not
especially significant. What constitutes serious error is the deviation from
principle, the turning away from the directives and admonitions of the
Revelators, which were clearly to confine changes only to spelling,
capitalization, and punctuation.
The Foundation was NOT mandated to: "Keep the text pretty close to inviolate" -- or -- "Confine those changes that could be considered more than minor changes to fewer than ten."
The Revelators no doubt had sound reasons for the original categorical directive to the contact commission not to edit the actual text of the Papers in any way. They surely knew that once the door of editorial latitude was opened, the text could be changed at will by the Trustees. Who then, would be the guardians of an inviolate text? Who could predict what motivations and agendas would drive future Trustees? Should we trust the whims of human nature, without stringent guidelines, and without accountability to the readership, to protect the inviolability of the text of the Urantia Papers for centuries to come?
According to the pioneers' "History of the Urantia Movement," the preservation of an inviolate text was the paramount, sacred duty of Urantia Foundation. But with the second printing the focus shifted. Protecting the text of the Urantia Papers was displaced as the central mission by a fierce and fanatic commitment to protect and prolong the copyright.
Sadly, of the 400,000 or so copies of Urantia Books in existence, only the first ten thousand copies -- the edition prepared by the contact commission -- were printed inviolate. The Pathways publication of The Urantia Papers (1995) reproduced the 1955 text exactly and published the important changes made by Urantia Foundation, but only 2800 copies were distributed. These historic first edition text replications are now very hard to come by. The Fellowship editions of The Urantia Book only compounded the Foundation's errors. Fellowship editors copied some of the original "errors" in the first edition and made their own pet editorial changes in the text! None of these additional alterations were footnoted in the text, but a partial list of them are made available "upon request!" No one has ever explained why the Fellowship followed, lock-step, Urantia Foundation's departure from common academic practice.
It is for ages yet unborn that the principle of an inviolate text must be preserved. The Revelators could probably predict that there would eventually be "versions" of the Urantia Papers. Some people will want to update the language, others may decide to remove certain passages, and so on. Certainly, many mortals of the planet will come forward to seek to put their own stamp upon the Urantia Papers.
It is for readers and academicians 500 years from now that we need a clear lineage of authentically inviolate editions of the text as a touchstone by which to measure human meddling and modifications. This lineage was broken in 1967 with the second printing of The Urantia Book, when Urantia Foundation unwittingly went into default. The current trustees are now aware of the problem, yet have elected not to admit previous errors and correct the situation, and thus Urantia Foundation is totally defunct, its mission is in default. We believe the protection of the inviolate text of the Urantia Papers has now clearly become the responsibility of the grassroots Reader-Believers. There is no one else.
THE PRIME DIRECTIVES
It must be noted that the current
trustees of Urantia Foundation have gone beyond simply failing to be able to
print any two editions of The Urantia Book that are alike. According to the
"History of the Urantia Movement" which was submitted on behalf of
Urantia Foundation in the Maaherra litigation, a second prime directive of the
Revelators clearly instructed the contact commission not to attach any human
names to the Urantia Papers. Urantia Foundation is now -- by tacit acceptance
of Judge Schroeder's baffling opinion -- attaching Dr. Sadler's entire forum as
human co-authors of the Urantia Papers! There were over 400 forum members, and
their names were recorded.
There is no gentle or euphemistic way to write it: Urantia Foundation is now in default on two prime directives: to preserve the text inviolate and NOT to attach any human names to the Revelation. The current trustees know these directives and facts. They have clearly violated their trust and compromised Urantia Foundation beyond redemption.
IT IS NOT THE CHANGES PER SE, THAT WE PROTEST
We do not contest well-intended
changes; nor do we contend the first printing was perfect.
Rather, we contest a policy that has left us without the hard-won legacy of the contact commission -- the inviolate text of the Urantia Papers -- by which we, and future readers, may judge past changes and weigh contemporary modifications for ourselves.
We believe that those who accepted the torch of truth from the contact commission should have honored their cardinal responsibility: to keep the text inviolate -- warts and all. If this had been done, apparent errors footnoted, and the plates preserved, readers five hundred years in the future would have a solid standard by which to measure and evaluate the many "versions" of the Papers that are sure to be published.
Thus, it is utterly critical that an inviolate text be made available to Urantia scholars and to readers who want to examine the original text. We believe the best way to protect the inviolate text, and avoid making an icon out of first editions of the Urantia Book, is to allow everyone who wants one to be able to acquire an exact copy of the first printing. (Original 1955 first editions now go for close to $1,000. Imagine what their value will be in the year 2500!)
We believe the best way to protect the inviolate text is to flood the planet with accurate copies of the first printing, priced within reach of all truth-seekers. Thus, future readers will have a sound criterion to compare and evaluate various "editions" and "spins" of the Urantia Papers.
A new generation of Urantians must now re-establish the broken lineage of the inviolate text that the original Urantian pioneers worked so hard to produce for us in the 1955 edition. We need a new keeper of the inviolate text.
LARRY MULLINS (1/9/99)