The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive
The Dynamics of Empowerment
Midwest Conference Talk; Revision of 4/19/92
After our survival and safety needs are taken care of, the most important concern of human beings is empowerment for living. We need physiological nourishment to furnish energy for all of our activities. To transcend the mere animal level of human living we need to be energized and nourished by the value or spiritual level of reality.
Twentieth century psychologists and psychiatrists like Carl G. Jung, Viktor Frankl, 0. Herbert Mowrer, Henry A. Murray, Roberto Assagioli, Abraham H. Maslow and others have emphasized the overriding importance of this source of human empowerment. These values have been variously denominated as "transpersonal," "meta," "being," and "spiritual" values. These meta-needs are rooted in human biology and psychology. They are universal and not merely the product of social conditioning. Metavalues are the ground of human personality. they are intrinsic, supracultural, transpersonal, and related to Ultimate Reality. When these values are not actualized in our lives we become frustrated, maladjusted, and ill. We are cut off from our fully human empowerment.
To become creative and productive we must have a healthy, living connection with the source of all wisdom and power. The branches cannot bear fruit unless they have an organic connection with the vine and root system. The Supreme Being is this divine energizing influence undergirding creativity, competence, and achievement. This is the source of all empowerment.
We seek meaningful actualization and fulfillment as individuals and as a planet. How is divine empowerment mediated to us? Every person is unique. "The love of the Father absolutely individualizes each personality as a unique child of the Universal Father, a child without duplicate in infinity, a will creature irreplaceable in all eternity." (p. 138) Each person is "a natural" in some kind of activity or service. What is your deep motivation? Which activities do you find creative? Where do you find ideal play in which you lose yourself?
The Indwelling Spirit of God has an ideal plan and purpose for our lives. This is not necessarily a specific vocation but an optimal plan of development and service. As we sincerely strive to follow this divine calling, we will experience enthusiasm and empowerment. In optimizing this fulfilling activity, we need to ask ourselves how this creativity can be most helpful to others. It is the constructive and helpful work that is important, not our ego inflation. "When you feel important, you lose energy to the wear and tear of ego dignity so that there is little energy left to do the work. Self-importance, not work-importance, exhausts immature creatures; it is the self element that exhausts, not the effort to achieve. You can do important work if you do not become self-important; you can do several things as easily as one if you leave yourself out." (p.555) Creative work is an empowering joy. Burnout is ego-exhaustion.
When we actualize the Indwelling Spirit's plan for our lives, we initiate a partnership. This divine-human partnership is endlessly empowering. It is the exciting adventure of evolving our souls and serving humankind. It is the satisfying, self-forgetting absorption in work that is more important than ourselves. We can fine-tune our energy alignment by meditation and contemplation. But we open ourselves to the source of all power through self-transcending worship. In this life-long partnership, we recognize that we are not the senior partner but are endlessly grateful that we are associated with a loving helper with infinite resources.
Our daily capacity for creative work is a function of being. Based on the caliber of our native endowment, it depends on the openness and dimension of the channel connecting us to the source of human empowerment. Just as the quality and diameter of the wire of conduction linked with a dynamo determines the flow of electricity, so the quality and magnitude of our soul's connection with the Almighty Supreme determines the amplitude of our empowerment. This is not an introspective preoccupation, but a self-forgetting, reality oriented, even tough-minded, dedication to loving service. Our personality potential is a function of our spiritual maturity.
One of the most effective ways of expanding soul growth and concomitantly empowerment capacity is unselfish service. Our empowerment grows as we help others, contribute to truth, beauty, and goodness on our planet, and create that which will make the world a better place in which to live. "Service-more service, increased service, difficult service, adventurous service, and at last divine and perfect service-is the goal to time and the destination of space." (p.316) Service is the channel through which we are actualizing the will of God, expanding our potential of empowerment, and implementing our greatest source of happiness and fulfillment.
Next to promoting soul growth along with mastering the cosmic circles of personality development and the loving service of our family and associates, probably our most important concern should be the spiritual rejuvenation and empowerment of our planet. Our world is suffering from environmental pollution, social confusion , economic insolvency, and moral decadence. We desperately need the creative renewal of the Fifth Epochal Revelation.The Urantia Book is Christ Michael's saving answer to our spiritual isolation and confusion. This enlarged vision of reality will initiate one of the "most amazing and enthralling epochs of social readjustment, moral quickening, and spiritual enlightenment" ever experienced on our world.
How can we engage in this outreach ministry? Each person is different and we should make our own decisions about our service to others. Stemming from my own experience, I should like to share with you five convictions undergirding principles of ministry which condition our goals and objectives.
- 1.We should never use authoritarian influence and control or attempt to
tell other people what they should do in their spiritual service.
For many years the power structure in Urantia Brotherhood attempted to designate what readers of The Urantia Book should and should not do in outreach ministry. Authoritarian influence was used in attempting to enforce conformity to these policies. When I announced my intention to found The Christian Fellowship of Students of The Urantia Book in 1979 several members of the Executive Committee tried to prevent me from doing so. They assumed that authority could be used to stop me from outreach activities which they thought violated Brotherhood policies. Fortunately others on the Executive Committee did not share their views or at least did not join in their authoritarian challenge. Privately Christy told me, "Pay no attention to them, they have been obstructionists for years." A little later Urantia Foundation attempted similar intimidation by summoning me to a special meeting of the Trustees. At the time of this writing, Urantia Foundation is still attempting to use authoritarian pronouncements to control outreach activities.
We should, of course, welcome and seriously consider the concern and highest wisdom which others have concerning our activities. But we should not attempt to dominate or control other people in their spiritual service; nor should we allow others to manipulate or intimidate us.
- 2. Our ministry and service should be predicated on spiritual guidance
and evolutionary human wisdom. It should be evaluated by concrete, time-tested
experience. We should not allow fearful, defensive, negative thinking nor problems, difficulties,
and suffering to override spiritual guidance and experiential wisdom.
Spiritual guidance and human wisdom should direct our service and outreach ministry. All too often we allow fear, personal pride, obstacles and difficulties, or theoretical assumptions to control our behavior. "The religion of the spirit means effort, struggle, conflict, faith, determination, love, loyalty, and progress." (p. 1729) Recently the Fraternal Relations Committee of the Fellowship has applied for membership in the North American Interfaith Network. Even such positive ecumenical outreach causes fear in some minds. A long-time reader of The Urantia Book called the chair of the committee and informed him that we were making a monumental mistake in taking this step. This kind of thinking would have kept Jesus in the carpenter shop all his life.
All too often our thinking and action is determined by theoretical assumptions rather than actual experience. I am not suggesting that we engage in stupid or immoral behavior to experientially validate its depravity. Rather, I am observing that on the growing edge of human progress, experience is an invaluable aid to wise planning and action.
Years ago while serving as president of the Brotherhood I had a running discussion over dozens of letters for several years with a man on the East Coast. He thought we should be using mass media to inform the public of The Urantia Book. Taking care not to sound authoritarian, I suggested that, in my judgment, it would be wiser and more effective to use evolutionary methods of outreach. Finally, seeing that he was not convinced, I wrote him saying, "Look, I've only been sharing our highest wisdom with you which is based on limited experience. Maybe we are wrong. Why don't you try what you are suggesting. If we are mistaken, your service could be a benefit to the entire Urantia movement." He must have done some experimenting with negative results for that was the last I heard from him. What I am suggesting is that theory, when questioned or challenged, should always be validated by concrete experience. At the same time, we ought not allow problems, difficulties, failure, and suffering to override spiritual guidance and experiential wisdom. But it should sharpen our perception and adjustment to both.
- 3. Our world is in critical need of the spiritual vision, wisdom, and power
of the Fifth Epochal Revelation. All who have the calling and courage should
engage in this saving outreach ministry according to their highest wisdom. We should promote and encourage a pluralistic, many-faceted ministry by individuals and groups.
There is a cliche´ in the Urantia movement that one should use the teachings of The Urantia Book without presenting the Fifth Epochal Revelation itself. For twenty-five years I tested the wisdom and effectiveness of this advice. I found that it is indeed a cliché which belongs to the old dispensation. It became obvious that this outreach methodology only enhanced the old and traditional frames of reference. Even gifted speakers like Harry Emerson Fosdick, Norman Vincent Peal, and Robert Schuler are limited to and by this horse and buggy spiritual cosmology and vision of the Middle Ages.
Experience demonstrates that only a spiritual paradigm shift, a major philosophical-theological model transformation can effect a major change in human civilization and culture. There is no substitute for the Fifth Epochal Revelation itself The Urantia Book presents a new spiritual cosmology and power which cannot be duplicated by sprucing up the old traditional model of spiritual understanding and vision. Substituting some enhanced religious euphemisms for the real power of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is simply inadequate for the needs of our torn and confused world.
The spiritual pioneers of the future are those who will bring the conceptual and spiritual power of the Fifth Epochal Revelation to humankind. With the new freedoms achieved in the Urantia movement, the stage is now set for initiating a pluralistic, many-sided outreach ministry by individuals and groups which will eventually transform our planet.
- 4. We need to become true sons and daughters of the Supreme. This means
that we must dedicate and prepare ourselves for the rigorous, long-term evolutionary
struggle which is required in establishing spiritual foundations.
Probably the most difficult human trait to acquire is confident, cheerful endurance to principle and purpose in the face of difficulties, reverses, and defeat. We thrive on success and positive feedback. But our enthusiasm tends to wane in the long, hard, evolutionary struggle. We are citizens of the Supreme, which means that we must learn to enjoy and invigorate in the long, hard struggle for even small gains. Intelligent and insightful planning combined with hard work are the indigenous requirements of evolutionary accomplishment. Grass roots achievement is the foundation of progress in the realm of the Supreme. My former roommate's grandfather worked for twenty years among the Winnebago Indians before he had his first convert.
We must become discouragement resistant and defeat proof. The pioneers of the future will "learn to feast upon uncertainty, to fatten on disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of" the thrilling adventure before us, and "to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the" seemingly impossible tasks facing this confused world of the cross. For we know that "in liaison with God, nothing—absolutely nothing—is impossible." (p. 291)
- 5. Finally, our world needs new religious and social movements and innovative
institutional developments born out of the enlarged vision and wisdom of the
Fifth Epochal Revelation.
We, of course, hope the Fifth Epochal Revelation will leaven the old religious and social institutions. I have devoted my life to interfacing with the most progressive elements of the Christian Church and contemporary philosophy. We need to have people interfacing with all major religions and social movements. But this is transitional activity.
The new spiritual-religious cosmology and reality framework of the Fifth Epochal Revelation demands new religious, philosophical, and social expressions. The history of religion and social movements reveals that every enlarged vision of reality produces new movements and institutions to actualize their purposes and goals. Somewhere young men and young women inspired by the thrilling message of hope which has been given to us, are evolving visions and preparing themselves to launch new movements and fresh approaches to rectify, and eventually transform, our increasingly critical human condition.
We who constitute the birth generations of the Fifth Epochal Revelation look forward with great anticipation to the brave spiritual pioneers who will follow us. We wish to encourage and support these spiritual heroes of tomorrow who will carry the baton on toward the goal of our planetary destiny.