Cooperation with the Supreme—
The Role of Conscious Choice in Value Development:
A Urantia Book Perspective
by L. Dan Massey
About sixteen years ago I received and began seriously to study The Urantia Book. In the passing years, I have often spoken to groups of readers, both large and small, about my understanding of certain parts and teachings of the book. Since presenting a talk at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, twelve years ago on "Science and The Urantia Book," I have frequently been asked to review and extend my ideas in public. Although I have often expressed my feelings on the philosophical and cultural aspects of the relationship of science and religion, I have never directly addressed the exact role which scientific and rationalist thought plays in unifying my personal religious experience around the teachings of The Urantia Book.
There are several reasons for this omission. I know that sincere statements of personal religious faith by one person, when expressed to another, often seem superficial or unpersuasive. I anticipate that many of the things I will say to you this afternoon will seem quite strange. Although I find my viewpoint of these matters wholly persuasive, I accept that, because of differing viewpoints, experiences, and patterns of thought, not everyone will find my views convincing. In spite of these natural reservations about opening my personal spiritual attitudes and thoughts to public examination, I know that the time has come for me to express these ideas plainly and clearly to receptive persons.
Although I have often spoken of such matters as the physics and the astronomy of The Urantia Book, I am relatively disinterested in these matters of interpretation of the cosmology of the book. I am an armchair hobbyist in both these fields. My actual, personal interest--the interest through which the book has profoundly affected my life--lies in deductive logic, the formal reasoning by which man seeks a direct knowledge of the Absolute (without the apparent benefit of revelation). There are a few parts of The Urantia Book in which mathematical methods and results are discussed, but it is not my purpose today to examine these. Rather, I invite you to explore, with me, the further reaches of spiritual understanding and faith which may be reached by inference from the teachings of The Urantia Book.
God the Father has given a mandate to all finite creation, "Be you perfect, even as I am perfect." The Urantia Book holds out to us the example of human perfection in the mortal life of Jesus of Nazareth. The procedures to achieve such dynamic perfection are clearly expressed many times. Jesus lived his entire life as if in the presence of the Father. Jesus' life was wholly dedicated to doing his Father's will. And this is surely a most desirable state of being, for we are told that "what a son desires and the Father wills will certainly come to pass." (*1300/10) How liberating from the partiality of human existence to know with certainty that one can contribute, even in this life, something of eternal value in the Supreme!
Between the thought and the deed falls the shadow. How is the wholehearted commitment of faith to be motivated? Here is paradox. How can I know that I am doing God's will? How can I know that my wholehearted commitment of faith will not engage my energies in some delusion of desire from which I would have been protected by a more reserved approach? Or would my prudent reservation condemn my supreme effort to fruitless dissipation? Shall I fail through unwise overcommitment or through overly cautious undercommitment? And will not the potential failure, which now seems increasingly inevitable, further disprove my belief and weaken my will to act upon it?
The Urantia Book does not specifically unravel this paradox for its readers. It provides a great deal of information about the mechanisms of belief, faith, spiritual insight, prayer, providence, and so forth, and unifies all of its commentary into a single statement of absolution, "The act is ours, the consequences God's." We all desire to do right, but we must not fear to act because we might do wrong. To act rightly is to do good. To act wrongly may do evil. To fail to act does nothing. Wisdom advises us of the action which is truly good. Fear of evil-doing prevents action and denies us the opportunity to grow in wisdom. This fear is, in fact, a denial of the individual's faith in the infinite goodness of God and the infinite ability of God to adjust the consequence of our actions and to forgive us the errors of our ways. By cultivating a forgiving nature, we are able to accept God's forgiveness for error. Our will to action is thereby freed from fear.
As I retrace the steps in my thinking for you, I feel like a mountaineer leading a friend across a sheer rock face he has traversed alone many times. I know the way well, and, at each step my hands and feet reach out to find the familiar holds which bear the weight of my argument. Yet each new step brings me a thrill as I wonder "Is it still there? Can I encompass it in my imagination?" From time to time I anchor myself in place and hold the rope taut as you follow my route. Will your reach equal mine? Will you find the ideal holds? Will they bear the weight of your viewpoint, so different from my own? Or will you lose your footing and fall away from belief in my vision? And will the shock of your fall pull me down, too? We would not be here today, hanging between heaven and earth, had I not conquered my reservations. And my victory over these is of the same nature as my victory over all things.
How shall I know and knowingly do the Father's will? First, I must honestly desire the ideal of knowing and doing his will. I must place this desire above all other desires of my being. In time this desire will encompass and supplant all other, lesser desires, and my specific desires will become, through practical wisdom, more perfectly aligned with the Father's will. But how am I to know his will? What (if any) moral or ethical, legal or logical principles will guide me in its discovery? Or is this viewpoint erroneous?
For me, the knowing and the doing of the Father's will is an ontological reality, an experience of being and doing. And here I must draw a distinction between conception and intention. In my mind I can conceive of many possible actions which may or may not be consonant with the Father's will. I can endlessly analyze and examine, categorize and classify these potential actions without actually doing anything (much less the Father's will). But when an intention forms and takes finite expression in action, the synthesis of the consequences of that action with the circumstances of the occasion form an event in finite reality. I have done something--and God will pick up the pieces.
In the final, finite analysis my conception of action is irrelevant. The only act of will which finally matters is the singular act through which I form my intention. Though the immediate or local value of that intention may depend on the conceptual framework in which it is grounded, the final value of the act can only be to have done or not to have done the Father's will. All qualifications and variations are finally seen to miss the point.
The question of doing the Father's will is not, therefore, a matter of specific content so much as a matter of method. It is not a matter of knowing what the Father wills, but rather of understanding how the Father wills. The specific facts of the divine will are usually undiscoverable. The dynamic truth of the divine will is an intimate part of my very being through the Spirit of Truth. At the moment of decision, at the formation of the intention, the Spirit of Truth declares: "This is the way." Submission of my will to the divine will originates at this occasion. My desire for this submission of will is necessary to be able to do the Father's will.
But is this willful submission sufficient? Sufficiency is achieved when the direction and formation of intention is freed from the conflicting currents and impulses of the self-will. And here it may be helpful to utilize the processes of spiritual communion to reduce these conflicts and to help perfect the intentional process. I can pray; I can give thanks; I can worship; I can commune with the divine personality. I can pray to do the Father's will; and such a prayer will be effective, for it is the Father's will. I can give thanks to the Spirit for those ministries of mind and circumstance which enable and guide my doing of the divine will; and such thanks will be relevant and meaningful, for it is the Spirit's purpose to enact that will. In total awe of the functional majesty of this process, wherein the desire of the creature is united with the will of the creator through the recognition of these inevitable relationships, I worship the divine person who ordained it. And in the fullness of our communion my self-will relaxes from its struggle with the divine.
Having come to such a position of peace and assurance, my intention is formed and I act. What can it now mean to ask if my action accorded with the Father's will? The question is meaningless. When I have exhausted human capabilities of spiritual preparation, when I have acted in a timely fashion in accordance with an established inner peace, then I have no real right to question whether I have done the Father's will. I have prepared myself for the moment of decision in accordance with my highest understanding of truth. I have formed my intention within a circle of peace established in my mind by the invited action of the Spirit. I have sought to do the Father's will in accordance with the self-defining nature of the divine will, so my act must accord with that will. When my preparation has been sincere, afterthoughts become irrelevant. I have done the best possible for a creature of my standing, and that is exactly what was expected of me.
And so I find that the Father's will is doable even when it is not explicitly knowable. At times it may be necessary to know in order to do; however, the details of our actions are usually closer to the guidance of our spiritual guardians than to the will of the Absolute. In any case, if I believe The Urantia Book, then I can be certain of knowing what I may need to know and of doing what I must do when I must do it. But there is more to this line of thought than just a path or right action. By extension of the same process I cocreate spiritual realities which are effective beyond my own local sphere of action. But first I must clarify the path that you may join me in ascending to these further considerations.
When I told you that it was the Father's will for his individual mortal children to be able to form their intentions and to act in accordance with his will, I stated an obvious, true proposition. In a larger sense, however, this is one of those propositions which is true in a timeless and spaceless, hence absolute, universe. As stated, the proposition takes no account of the factors of time and space in limiting the divinely willed answer to the prayer of faith. A cloud of doubt sweeps across our outpost on the high cliff of reasoned faith. How do I know the action of the Father's will to form my intention will be effective at the time the intention is formed? Perhaps the Father wills for me to not do his will! Such a position recognizes the relativity and multiplicity of the divine wills as they manifest in time and space.
Yet, in a larger sense, the fact that the divine will is, at the occasion of my intention, multiple and conditioned by the quality of my communion with the divine, the degree of submission of my will to the divine will, does not prevent my act from according with the Father's will. Rather, this multiplicity of possibilities assures that there is available to me an ideal intention that is optimized for my current state of understanding and/or attunement to the divine. If I sincerely desire to do the Father's will, I will do the Father's will, and I will accept the consequences of my actions as the Father's will. My faith must encompass both the sincere desire for the act and the sincere acceptance of the result. My choice of the Father's will is assured by the desire and validated by the acceptance.
After sincerely doing the Father's will, I have no right to reject the results of my action. The consequences are the Father's will, and must be accepted as such. If I do not like the result, it is not because I failed to do the Father's will. It may be that a result more to my liking could have been obtained had I better understood or more fully attuned to the fullness of the divine will. However, this is not always the case. The Urantia Book makes clear that the prospect of a violent death, his mission rejected by virtually all who knew him, was an outcome definitely not to Jesus' liking. On the other hand, the book also makes clear that this was the inevitable result of Jesus' perfect choosing of the Father's will, as it converged on and combined with the defective and evil purposes of those around him.
For the person who is sincere of heart, in no case can a materially bad outcome to a moral action be interpreted as a personal failure to choose the divine way. By the same token, a materially good outcome should not be interpreted as a sign of great success. I am convinced that the spirit ministers of our everyday life do their very best (within the limits imposed by material reality and by the freewill choices of those around us) to achieve the best material results from our efforts; however, their inability to do so in a particular situation does not indicate moral failure. Success in moral choice is achieved through focused sincerity and recognition of the spiritual influences which facilitate our moral choosing. We do our best and we accept the result.
As I said before, there is more to this process than simply doing the Father's will. Having accepted the premises that lead to understanding the inevitability of a perfecting moral choice, I find these same principles extend to the domain of effective prayer, of cocreative communion. Let me explain.
"What the true son desires and the infinite Father wills IS." (*1639/21) What an exhilarating statement! What an amazing promise of freedom from the apparent limitations of a finite material being! What a wonderful opportunity to join with the Father in the creation of permanent universe realities! What an incredible liberation from the relativity of values of finite existence! Through this single principle, I, a mere mortal, can change not only myself but also the universe! My desires, when aligned with the divine will, engrave the tablets of universe history! My contribution, no matter how small, becomes both real and permanent!
To perform this purest, most spiritual work, I begin with prayer, the expression of my desire to God. If I am now to consciously formulate this desire within the scope of my spiritual intention, I must conceive of a thing which accords with the scope of the Father's will. I do not know this scope, although I may rely on revelation to disclose some possibilities. While autorevelation may be so effective, it is usually peculiar to the individual. The Urantia Book, on the other hand, discloses a range of possibilities for my desire which must accord with the divine will. Anyone can work in total confidence within this range and be assured of the effectiveness and power of their work.
The prayerful desire to know and to do the Father's will, to have greater knowledge of that will, is always consonant with that will. The certainty of divine response to this petition lies at the foundation of the principles of spiritually guided right intention and right action which I have explained and illustrated in the first half of this paper. There are other true and right desires. For example, the desire for others to grow in understanding of the Father's will also surely accords with that will. In fact, the unselfish character of such a petition may make it preferable to the prayer for one's own enlightenment. Viewing one's own need for wisdom and insight in the context of similar needs shared by a group of related persons may yield a higher quality overall result, better focused on the critical interpersonal component of Supreme reality.
Let us suppose that I find myself in conflict with a fellow creature personality. How can I assure that I do not needlessly perpetuate or prosecute this conflict, while assuring that my fellow has every opportunity for self-correction if such be needed? In the final analysis, such conflicts amount to differences in value systems between the individuals involved. My own growth in values is achieved through my personal dedication to doing the Father's will. But there is something else that I can do here to help my fellow creature. I must unselfishly share my inner world of prayerful desire with the needs of my fellow. There can be no doubt that it is the Father's will for each of his creatures to grow steadily in value towards perfection, to receive at each supremely important occasion the addition of value they require in order to know and to do his will. And whether they choose to accept the needed values or not, the supreme harmonization of circumstance with inner spiritual ministry can actualize these values for their adoption.
When I pray for the growth of another in spiritual values, I know that my prayer is consonant with the Father's will. I also know that it is capable of effect in a relevant finite frame of time and space, even though my own intention may have been formed elsewhere and elsewhen. The spiritual ministries by which the circumstances of finite reality are coordinated are able to transcend both time and space. In addition, the specific form of the intention emitted by my mortal mind will be, if I desire, reformed and perfected through the volitionally ubiquitous action of the Master Creator Son. For did not Jesus promise his disciples: "If you do not know what to pray, then pray in my name" and does not the book tell us that "on all such occasions the Master is really present"?
The range of such spiritual power is great. The very probabilities of potential factualization are subject to personally mediated spiritual control. The chains of causation which trace the habits of God are well understood by the spirit ministers of our life's circumstances. The reactions of the mortal soul-mind lie open to the ministry of the Thought Adjuster, which ever perfectly coordinates its work with that of the spirit deflectors. Volition brings this vast spiritual process into operation. Not all things that could happen actually do happen. Not even infinity can encompass the actualization of all alternative potentialities. A process of sorting and selection must occur and my volitional expression of my desires contributes to the specification of that selection process.
Naturally, the scope of my thoughts and desires is very much like that of other mortal will creatures. For the most part, my acts of volition are anticipated and already accommodated by the universe based on the natural tendencies of the species, the established peculiarities of my person, and the divinely ordained plan of the occasion. In the domain of personality, however, and especially in the interactions of diverse personalities, the incommensurable nature of personal values and the unpredictable nature of free will choice create an arena in which the determinations of my personal volition are most likely to be of supreme significance, lying beyond the routine functions of the spiritual universe. Within this sphere of action my desires, my attitudes, and my prayers have their greatest effect on my experience. Here, where the overall program of reality is least mechanical, I have the greatest power to shift the probabilities of events, to establish the program by which my experience will harmonize with or become disjoint from the experience of my fellows.
When I choose that others should grow (according to their own freewill choice) in values related to our united personal experiences, I cocreate with God a field of attraction into which I and those who sincerely share my dedication to the divine will are drawn together through the harmonious unity of shared values similarly illuminated. At the same time, those persons who will not share in this harmony of values experience no such attraction, and those who attune to the occasion while opposing the divine will propel themselves away from our unity.
This situation places on me a considerable responsibility. Through the workings of this process I may be drawn to unexpected unities and draw unexpected visitors into my own. At the same time, I may find myself expelled from situations I had not realized to be false, for which I was spiritually unprepared, or which I had outgrown. Although these transitions may sometimes be painful, and often are inconvenient, I must learn to welcome each new experience for its own inherent value and to welcome the shattering of old forms as the prelude to new and better harmonies. Having accepted much responsibility for the arrangement of my interpersonal affairs, and having committed myself to work actively with the divine will, I must be prepared to accept in love the product of this work, even when unexpected or challenging to ancient preconceptions.
For me, no such prayer of truth is complete until the mortal mind recognizes the divine response through the act of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, like prayer, transcends both time and space. The volitional intention of prayer is causally antecedent but temporally uncoupled from the chain of causation which effects the recognition of the object of thanks. In short, I may find that I sometimes pray for value-events after they have happened and give thanks for value-events before I recognize their existence.
And all this is possible because of my certain faith in the process. By giving thanks for the answer to prayer, I accept that answer. By praying in accordance with the Father's will, I am guaranteed a recognizable answer. By giving thanks in conjunction with the prayer, even before I can recognize the answer, I make my acceptance of the answer unconditional, and thus conform the original desire most closely to the divine will. The certainty of the answer, the recognition of the answer, and the acceptance of the answer together constitute a process which is always effective and which further reinforces the faith which drives and supports it in my personal experience.
Having thus focused my desire upon matters within the range of the divine will, and having thus validated my selection by accepting the spiritual reaction to my desire, I must, in all honesty, open my heart to spiritual correction and remediation of defects in the overall process. In all such occasions I must recognize the importance of adjusting my own attitude to the circumstances as equal in importance to the sought-for uplift in the values of my fellows. I permit this adjustment for myself, this opportunity for corrective feedback, by opening myself to the Father in worshipful communion. This is not a difficult thing to do; it is virtually automatic if one simply takes a little time.
The Urantia Book tells us that the desire for worship is sufficient to permit the Thought Adjuster to conduct worship and to register the worshipful impulse in the presence of the Father on Paradise. The desire for worship is a natural consequence of all the foregoing considerations. I do not worship because I want my thoughts adjusted, but I accept their adjustment as a beneficial, though occasionally distressing, side effect of the worshipful act. Rather, I worship as a final expression of my self-recognition of sonship and of my relationship to the awful and glorious universe spiritual power which enables this process of adjustment and reconciliation.
The completion of this reflective cycle assures my mortal mind of the effective discharge of spiritual responsibility in the original subject of desire. This does not necessarily free me from material or mindal responsibilities in the occasion. Instead, God has established for me a spiritual process, to which I have become personally attuned, which must result in the satisfactory resolution of the desire. Since the effect of these spiritual forces is able to transcend both time and space, I do not need to be physically or mentally present at the time and place of original causation in order to benefit from the answer to my prayer. However, because many such matters, while within the scope of the Father's will, will not be of a purely spiritual nature, I must be prepared to participate personally in the factual and mindal outworking of my petition when necessary. In addition to accepting adjustment of my own spiritual attitudes, I may find myself serving my fellow man by being drawn into chains of causation which are related to the needs of persons outside the original scope of my intention. This causes me no concern, since the overall cosmic response in the Supreme to my intention may be literally caused by similar actions of other "disinterested parties."
And so, with some stretching, we arrive at the objective of this discourse. There is, in The Urantia Book, a process of highly effective prayer which can accomplish those things in our experience which most require divine intervention for their accomplishment; that is, the harmonization and unification of personal and interpersonal behavior. There is a broad class of desires, consonant with the Father's will, which are capable of certain fulfillment through the cosmic reactions of Supremacy. Although the Supreme is but partially expressed, this class of spiritual processes is stabilized and certain as a result of the supremacy of the Master Son and the concurrent eventuation of certain absonite realities in Nebadon.
Through this mechanism, the long-standing division between the mind-will and the spirit-will is at last repaired. There is a full and effective universe mechanism by which the will of the human mind, properly modulated by the intentions of the human spirit, fully participates in the selection and definition of finite realities. This mechanism exists and is fully revealed in the teachings of The Urantia Book concerning effective prayer, true worship, spiritual communion, and the functions of the Supreme and Ultimate. Having first freed the human mind from the superstitious slavery of false and literalist religions, which require belief without understanding, The Urantia Book now shows the way to unification of the mind and the spirit for effective, cocreative control over certain phases of the finite universe.
Primitive religionists and believers in magic have long sought to use rites and rituals to bind the outworking of the divine will to their desires. For minds indwelt by the Spirit of Truth, such efforts are doomed to degeneration into superstition and willful insanity. Yet belief in the efficacy of prayer persists, in spite of little supporting objective evidence. Now the truth may be stated plainly:
Although all primitive beliefs which accord supernatural powers to the human mind and will are relatively erroneous, there is contained within these beliefs a seed of Truth. The human mind and will are effective, through the ministry of the Spirit of Truth and the Thought Adjusters, for the development of the personality, and, through it, for the harmonization and unification of inner and outer realities. It is the Father's will for his sons to live in harmony, and through the intentions of the human mind, augmented by the ministry of the manifold phases and personalities of the Infinite Spirit, according to the plans ordained by the Divine Sons, such harmonies are expressed and perfected in the literal, finite universe.
Even so I stand here now before you and pray that the ministry of the Spirit will act throughout time and space, according to the Father's will, to so sensitize your souls to the divine values required for your understanding of these ideas that you will grow to apply them in your own experience in ways most beneficial to your own personality development. And I extend this plea to the hearts and minds of my friends who may chance to read these words at some other time and place. Knowing this desire of my heart to fully accord with the divine will, I have already given thanks to the Divine Minister of Salvington, the local universe Mother Spirit, for the perfect accomplishment of my intention, unifying the least literal event into a causal framework which has brought each of your hearts and minds to this occasion with the potential to adopt, adapt, and apply these ideas to your own evolving way. Join me, therefore, in a moment of silent communion with the Father and the Son, let your mind consent to worship, and remain still for a moment as our Adjusters register our worship in the presence of the Paradise Deities.
And, there is more:
For the soul of man, the human spirit, grows from near-complete imperfection towards complete finite perfection. Such a being cannot be truly perfect, since it has not always been perfect. In fact, it has not even always been. Once such a being has attained to perfection of the finite, how shall it close the gap of historical imperfection, so that it may truly become perfect, even as the Father is perfect? How are the awful errors of time to be corrected? The key lies in the diversity and multiplicity of the divine will. Although all perfected finite beings act always in accordance with the divine will, as individuals they would not act always the same in identical situations. The difference is the individual system of personality, as it is informed by the antecedent experience of being. And this same experience of being is, at best, a path towards perfection, not a path of more than relative perfection. These imperfections, these errors, these evils, sins, and iniquities over which the spirit has finally triumphed, have, in their remediation, colored the individual experience in ways that forever influence the course and expression of personal spiritual development.
And it is in the post-finite age of absonities eventuating in perfection that the errors of past imperfection of the individual are harmonized with the perfect realities of infinity. For in this new and broadened arena of spiritual and literal action the time-space transcendence of Supremacy is revealed as the eventuator of the will of the Ultimate. In this new universe, the errors of time and the evils of space are seen in true perspective as parts of a greater, ultimately good and harmonious whole. More remarkably, this eventually perfected whole exists in potential today and is absonitized by each occasion in which the finite will chooses the Father's will. The finite choice of the divine will today is an eternal reality joining man and God in joint commitment to make this choice the first step of an ultimately perfected universe reality. If man will have faith and persist in this relationship, the ministry of the Spirit will assure that the ultimate responsibilities thus incurred are in and of the nature of the perfected Finaliter. The human mind, spirit, and soul have nothing to fear in eternity. The frog is the tadpole's destiny as surely as the Finaliter of uniquely transcendent service is the destiny of the mortal personality.
So here is a complete, lengthy, somewhat detailed analysis of my personal experience of the ordinary events of being and doing the Father's will. It is unusual in only one respect--that it admits conscious choosing of events in a cooperative but nonpassive way. The same experience also admits unconscious participation, and it is here that the idea of "loving in the presence of God" seems most descriptive. Upon attaining and acknowledging co-Supremacy throughout Nebadon with the Universe Mother Spirit, Michael of Nebadon became volitionally ubiquitous throughout finite time and space. As the human Jesus of Nazareth he had anticipated this occasion, and had committed this ubiquity, in part, to the service of his mortal associates. In establishing the Remembrance Supper as the only true sacrament, Michael determined that he would use this new power to provide true worship in his divine presence for any and all faith-conscious persons throughout the time and space of Nebadon.
Whoever so wills shall be in the presence of the Creator Son. Whoever so chooses shall live in the light of the Master. Whoever so intends shall serve his fellows in love. Whoever so desires shall walk with God.