The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive
The Urantia Book: The Gift of Revelation
This article is an attempt to present the basic facts and some of the truths of The Urantia Book so that someone not familiar with the book can get a reasonably accurate view of its teachings in a relatively short time. The following summary, however, is an inadequate representation of the high spiritual quality of The Urantia Book and is presented only for educational purposes. Such a condensed review fails to suggest the book's many truth insights and broad universe grasp of Reality.
The Rev. Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger is a retired UCC minister who has been involved in the introduction of The Urantia Book to clergy throughout North America since the publication of the book in 1955.
We are living in one of the great pivotal periods of history. Society has undergone more change in the last one hundred years than in the previous two thousand years. We are unlocking the secrets of the microcosmos and beginning to travel in outer space. Great strides have been taken in the mastery and manipulation of our physical environment. During this century we have evolved a new physics, a new astronomy, a new psychology, and the beginnings of a new philosophical age.
Civilization changes course when new views of reality shift the thinking of humanity into different channels of growth. We appear to be on the edge of one of these conceptual transformations. Our society may be on the verge of another revolution in the way we view our world and the universe. The modern era began around the middle of the 17th century when the old scholastic authority system began to break down under the impact of empirical science. Soon even the common person came to realize that we live in a world where things obey scientific laws. For hundreds of years the scientific-technical frame of reference has shaped Western Civilization. We have significant achievements in scientific development. But in the midst of our electronic wizardry, computers, and space travel something has gone awry; our focus on reality has blurred.There is a great confusion of values and a widespread sense of meaninglessness.
A New Input
Scientists from the disciplines of physics to psychology and scholars in the arts and humanities are all detecting evidence for a new but still largely hidden shaper of reality sometimes called "mind-spirit stuff" which our current philosophy and belief systems do not adequately encompass. It is generally recognized that our world view needs a more inclusive conception of reality. There is a pervasive hunger for this holistic grasp of ultimate design. Our society is passing through a collective psychological and spiritual reorientation equivalent in magnitude to the emergence of Christianity from the ruins of the Greco-Roman civilization.
A New Vision of Reality
Thousands of balanced and perceptive people with diverse religious backgrounds believe the key to bringing about this new spiritual age is found in the teachings of The Urantia Book. It is one of the most promising sources of creative thought in philosophy, religion, and culture in our contemporary world. The overwhelming consensus among those who have read the book is that it will receive universal recognition for its high spiritual quality and enlarged vision of reality.
In its two thousand pages The Urantia Book presents an integrated picture of the universe. Its overarching grasp of the dynamics of civilization and culture shed wisdom in almost every area of human endeavor. The Urantia Book purports to be the Fifth Epochal Revelation, yet its message is open and benign. It seeks to work in and through the evolutionary process and within the social institutions of our world. For the first time in the history of our planet we have a coherent and integrated picture of the nature of reality, the cosmology of the universe, and the story of the development of progressive revelation on our world.
An Integrated Universe
Before we can understand the story of revelation, we must know something of the nature of reality and the organization of the universe in which we live. God, the First Source and Center of all things and beings, is primal in relation to reality; he is the Universal Father of all creation. God is spirit and we should think of him as the creator, controller, and infinite upholder of all things. He is infinite, eternal, righteous, just, loving, merciful, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is a person who can know and be known; he is a personality and infinitely more.
The Trinity—Universal Father, Eternal Son, and Infinite Spirit—are resident on the Isle of Paradise at the center of the universe of universes. The Isle of Paradise is surrounded by six concentric levels of astronomical creations. The first of these universe levels is composed of the perfect pattern worlds of the Central Universe, Havona. This universe of perfection is in many ways similar to Plato's vision of the "perfect patterns" of Ultimate Reality and the conception of heaven in traditional Christianity.
Paradise and the Central Universe are encompassed by seven evolutionary universes with their countless astronomical galaxies, stellar constellations, star systems, and teeming inhabited planets. Paradise, Havona, and the Seven Superuniverses are populated with celestial beings of diverse and complex abilities and capacities suited to their specific duties and responsibilities. Beyond these sections of the cosmos which are presently inhabited are four gigantic outer space levels. The myriads of star galaxies of this unbelievably vast creation now assembling are uninhabited but some day will, no doubt, be populated.
A Unique Creation Plan
The basic administrative unit of the seven superuniverses is the local universe composed of constellations, star systems, and suns with their families of inhabited planets. After the Universal Father brought the Isle of Paradise and the Central Universe into being at the dawn of eternity, he instituted a delegated creation plan for the finite, evolutionary universes. The Universal Father and the Eternal Son gave origin to Paradise Creator Sons of the order of Michael who are empowered and ordained as creators of the local universes and worlds of time and space.
Each Creator Son is unique in nature and personality; each is the "only begotten Son" to their universe. A Michael Son is the local universe personification of the Universal Father and the Eternal Son in his universe. All who go to the Father in his universe proceed through his benevolent ministry. Each Creator Son must earn his sovereignty by incarnating in the likeness of the various orders of created beings in his universe.
This broad overview of the kind of universe in which we live must be kept in mind if we are to understand the story of revelation. In addition to this macrocosmic knowledge, we need to be aware of the origin, nature, and development of our world, Urantia, before many of the incidents of revelation yield insight and meaning.
Evolution and Revelation
Evolution is the slow process established by divine creative initiative to bring about biological modifications, mind enhancements, social improvements, and soul growth upon which higher human development can be built. Evolution functions in dynamic and complementary interaction with revelation. There are two types of revelation: personal or autorevelation and planetary or epochal revelation. Personal revelation is the work of the indwelling spirit of God and can occur throughout the life experience of an individual. Epochal revelation is periodic and is given to the world by supervising celestial personalities of the universe. Broadly speaking, revelation can not be received until there is evolutionary readiness for it; and religion is not upstepped by epochal revelation until the spiritual dynamic of the previous revelation no longer stimulates adequate creative growth in evolutionary development or until a larger and deeper view of reality is needed for planetary advancement.
Epochal revelations are transforming, and forever change planetary history. They save civilization much time in sorting out and integrating the various evolutionary facts and truths and present them in a holistic picture. Sometimes these planetary revelations fill in missing historical gaps while simultaneously presenting enlarged spiritual truth to guide humanity into an era of greater understanding and love. Epochal revelation furnishes fresh viewpoints for an entire civilization. Upon this larger and more encompassing foundation of truth, humanity begins developing new patterns of growth to actualize and improve society.
Religion is dramatically stimulated by revelation. Following such revelatory breakthroughs prophets and priests arise in the indigenous religions of the world to restate ancient truths and bring new relevance to their contemporary expression. Other religious leaders inspire the formation of new religions which give more adequate evolutionary expression to the epochal revelation, unencumbered by the barnacles of tradition. With the arrival of The Urantia Book, we have an understandable and coherent picture of the history of epochal revelation which is solidly rooted in planetary experience. Our world has received the following five epochal revelations:
- 1. The Dalamatian Teachings of the Planetary Prince. (Approximately 500,000 years ago.)
- 2. The Edenic Teachings of Adam and Eve. (Approximately 38,000 years ago.)
- 3. The Salem Teachings of Machiventa Melchizedek. (Approximately 4, 000 years ago.)
- 4. Jesus of Nazareth. (Approximately 2,000 years ago.)
- 5. The Urantia Book. (Approximately 50 years ago.)
Message and Methodology of Jesus
The message of Jesus centered around the living truths of love and service. The most basic reality recognition of life is the fact of the Fatherhood of God. This knowledge brings the realization that we are all sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Our highest privilege and greatest joy is found in the loving worship of the Universal Father; and our most fulfilling happiness is experience in serving our fellows, realizing that in so doing we are also serving God the Father.
Jesus placed primary emphasis on the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is an inner spiritual relationship centered in the truth of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is the rule of God in human hearts. Jesus' last word concerning the kingdom was, "The kingdom is within you." The essentials of entering the kingdom are faith, sincerity, and the hunger for truth, beauty, and goodness. The cardinal features of the kingdom are:
1. The pre-eminence of the individual.
2. The will as the determining factor in human experience.
3. Spiritual fellowship with God the Father.
4. The supreme satisfaction of the loving service of man.
5. The transcendency of the spiritual over the material in human personality.
This unified message is the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus in his rich resourcefulness in teaching avoided formulas and rote cliches; he warned against authoritarian creeds and dogmas.
The Master's teaching methodology was simple but effective. Among various teaching methods, he used the question and answer technique to stimulate critical thinking and creative spontaneity. The parable narrative was employed by Jesus to stimulate interest, improve retention, imply insight and truth without actually stating it which helped to avoid opposition, and finally to enhance and embellish a central truth—although his followers often treated the parable as an allegory.
The social aspect of his ministry revolved about the religious institutions and thought of the culture of his day. Jesus taught in the synagogues until these houses of worship were closed to him. He used the religious frames of reference of Judaism to advance his teachings. Using these indigenous resources for training, the Master sent apostles and disciples out in pairs and he trained women as well as men as evangelists. Jesus' acceptance and treatment of women as equals with men was probably the most revolutionary social practice of his ministry. The Master taught his apostles and disciples to minister to the whole person. Along with the good news of the gospel, they were to comfort the sick and augment the coping resources of people for facing the problems of living. Even though Jesus, the twelve apostles, the seventy evangelists, and his many disciples conducted an extensive outreach ministry and often attracted large crowds, there was little of the well-planned and professional in the Master's bestowal ministry. Most of the important things which Jesus said and did seemed to happen casually "as he passed by."
The Urantia Book
At this pivotal moment in history when humanity faces choices when have enormous potential for good and evil, once again we have received the gift of revelation which speaks to humankind saying, "This is the way." The enlarged revelation promised by Jesus, the Fifth Epochal Revelation, has come to us in the form of The Urantia Book. It brings a comprehensive and integrated view of the dynamic interaction between evolution and revelation. Along with this fascinating history, it presents a new and enlarged view of Deity and Reality. The Urantia Book sets the stage for the new age struggling to be born.
The Urantia Papers were written by numerous celestial personalities and materialized in the English language in the middle nineteen thirties. A group located in Chicago known as "The Forum" received the papers and they were instructed by the revelators to study the Urantia Papers intensively. Seventy individuals volunteered for this educational discipline and they continued this systematic study for around twenty years when permission was given to publish the papers. The Urantia Book was published on October 12, 1955.
The Urantia Book reveals a view of God which transcends all previous planetary knowledge. Although the idea of God as our heavenly father is the highest creature concept of Deity possible for the human mind, the Fifth Epochal Revelation expands and enriches our understanding of God. There is absolute unity in Divinity, yet this Reality is infinitely complex.
Origins of Reality
At the foundations of Ultimate Reality are the Seven Absolutes of Infinity. They have always existed. The Absolutes of Infinity are the ground out of which all creation—past, present, and future—originates. These Absolutes are;
1. The First Source and Center—The Universal Father.
2. The Second Source and Center—The Eternal Son.
3. The Third Source and Center—The Infinite Spirit.
4. The Isle of Paradise—the source of all universe energy and gravity control.
5. The Deity Absolute—the source of universe causation and personality potentials.
6. The Unqualified Absolute—the source of universe static-reactive and infinite capacity potentials.
7. The Universal Absolute—the source of universe unity and integration.
As we indicated at the beginning of our narrative, the First Source and Center is primal in relation to total reality and is limited only by volition; he is the Universal Father of all creation. God is spirit and we should think of him as the creator, controller, and infinite upholder of all things. He is infinite, eternal, righteous, just, loving, merciful, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is a person who can know and be known; he is a personality and infinitely more. God the Father is the bestower of personality and is the source of the universe personality-gravity circuit (contacts and attracts all personalities). A fragment of the Father, the Thought Adjuster, lives in the human mind and through this indwelling presence we can be in personal communion with God.
The Eternal Son is the spiritual center and administrator of all creation. The Son is absolute personality, revealing the God of love to the universe of universes. The Eternal Son is the Word of God and the essence of his character is mercy. The Son, like the Father, seeks to bestow everything possible of himself upon his co-ordinate and subordinate Sons. The spirit-gravity pull of the Eternal Son is the secret of Paradise ascent by surviving mortals.
The Infinite Spirit is the God of Action, the Conjoint Actor, carrying out the will of both the Universal Father and the Eternal Son. God the Spirit is absolute mind and he is responsible for the bestowal of mind and spiritual ministry to all creation. The Conjoint Creator is the manipulator of energy. The essence of the Spirit's character is ministry, and he is the source of the absolute mind-gravity circuit (contacts and ministers to minds) in the universe of universes. The ministry of the Paradise Trinity is co-ordinated: "God the Father loves men; God the Son serves men; God the Spirit inspires the children of the universe to the everlasting adventure of finding God the Father by the ways ordained by God the Sons through the ministry of the grace of God the Spirit."
The Paradise Trinity, when functioning as the Trinity, is not merely the association of the three persons of the Trinity but is a unique and absolute Deity Reality. The Trinity exercises control in the more or less nonpersonal capacity such as in functions of justice administration, totality attitudes, universe action, and cosmic overcontrol.
Future Deity Manifestations
In addition to the Paradise Trinity who have always existed, there are Deity personalities actualizing in the present and future epochs of time-space who will be of unending existence throughout all future eternity. The first of these evolving Deities is God the Supreme. He is the actualizing God of finite time and space. The Supreme is the personification of the totality of evolutionary experience; he grows as the personalities in the evolving universes attain Godlikeness.This concept is very close to the contemporary deity visualizations in the writings of Jung, Tillich, Teilhard de Chardin, and Whitehead; and essentially the same as the "immanence" concept of God in traditional theology. The Supreme is the catalyzer of all universe growth; with God the Supreme one must do something as well as be something. At the end of the present finite universe age the Supreme Being will function as the experiential sovereign of the Grand Universe.
In the eternal future there will be additional manifestations of experiential Deity in the person of God the Ultimate, and the possibility of the appearance of God the Absolute at the culmination of universe history. The authors of The Urantia Book discuss the conditions which would be required for such events to take place but do not elaborate extensively on these realities so far from experiential realization.
The Universe of Universes
Earlier, we briefly described the integrated universe in which we live. We will now present this cosmology in a little more detail. We live in a gigantic cosmos. At the center of this far flung creation is the Isle of Paradise. The Isle is an immense ellipse of material creation as well as a place of spiritual habitation. The Central Isle is the gravitational center of the universe of universes and the place of origin of all forms of reality—spiritual, mindal, and material energy, life, and personality. The material beauty of Paradise is perfect and its spiritual splendor is beyond mortal comprehension. The Isle of Paradise is surrounded by six concentric elliptical creations, the first being one billion perfect pattern worlds of the central universe, Havona.
Paradise and Havona are encompassed by seven evolutionary superuniverses. Each superuniverse is dominated by the influence of one of the Seven Master Spirits who are the primary creations of the Infinite Spirit. Throughout all eternity an ascendant mortal will exhibit the traits indicative of the presiding Master Spirit of the superuniverse of their origin. The seven superuniverses are each ruled by three Trinity-origin beings known as Ancients of Days.
The Isle of Paradise, the Central Universe, and the seven Evolutionary Superuniverses are sections of the universe of universes presently inhabited; it is known as the Grand Universe. Beyond the Grand Universe are four gigantic encircling outer space levels. The teeming planets of this unbelievably vast creation now assembling are uninhabited but some day will, no doubt, be populated. Some celestial philosophers postulate that beyond the fourth outer-space level there may evolve an ever-expanding, never-ending universe of infinity. The total universe of universes is denominated the Master Universe.
We live in the seventh superuniverse of Orvonton whose capital is Uversa. The Milky Way galactic system represents the nucleus of Orvonton. The superuniverse is divided into ten major sectors. Each major sector is composed of one hundred minor sectors; and all minor sectors contain one hundred local universes. Our local universe, Nebadon, when completed will have around ten million inhabited planets. Its capital world is Salvington. Nebadon, like all local universes, has one hundred constellations. Our constellation, Norlatiadek, is number seventy in Nebadon and its capital world is Edentia. Constellations are ruled by three local universe Vorondadek Sons known as the Most Highs. Urantia has been closely supervised by the Norlatiadek Most Highs because of the Lucifer rebellion.
Constellations are divided into one hundred systems; our system, Satania, is number twenty-four of Norlatiadek and its capital world is Jerusem. Each system when completed has one thousand inhabited worlds. Satania at present has 619 inhabited planets. Our world, Urantia, is number 606 of Satania. Systems are governed by local universe Lanonandek Sons, known as the System sovereign. We have already related the tragic story of the Lucifer rebellion in our system and the installation of our new System Sovereign, Lanaforge. The arrival of the Fifth Epochal Revelation marks the beginning of an accelerated process to bring about our restoration which was initiated by Christ Michael's bestowal on our world some two thousand years ago.
The Ascension Career
We have taken a brief view of the enlarged presentation of deity and reality and the expanded but integrated picture of the Master Universe in which we live. We have seen it from the top down and from the center outward; now let us view it from the bottom up. In preparation for this perspective it should be observed that the spiritual cosmology of the Grand universe parallels the material cosmography. We discover there is no sudden or magic translation from the mortal material level of being to the spiritual state of existence. There intervenes between material and spiritual reality a morontial state of being. Morontia material is created through a union of material and spiritual energies. We begin our post mortal existence as nearly complete material beings and finish our morontia growth and training as nearly total spirit personalities. During this transitional growth we pass through 570 separate and ascending morontia changes. Our ascendant experience and education takes place on specially constructed architectural spheres throughout the Grand Universe.
Our ascension career began when our ancestors were delivered from mere animal existence by developing worship and wisdom capacities. As individuals we receive our Thought Adjuster around the age of five or six and through the leading of the Adjuster and our will decisions affirming truth, beauty, and goodness we evolve an immortal soul. The mind is our ship of life; the Adjuster is our pilot compass; our will is the captain determining our destiny. Along with soul growth we must develop harmonious functioning of our entire personality. This integrative achievement is determined by our mastery of the seven psychic circles of human potentiality. The seventh circle level is associated with relative immaturity and the beginning of soul evolvement. When we arrive at the first circle our morontia soul has matured and we have achieved a high degree of Adjuster harmony. Mastery of the cosmic circles makes us more real as personalities and more effective and successful in human achievement. When our material body-mind perishes, this physical scaffolding used in morontia soul construction is discarded as the immortal soul edifice no longer has need of it.
Our faithful Thought Adjuster, who carries our identity and the memory transcription of our mortal career, along with our Seraphic Guardian, who is the custodian of our immortal soul, participate in our repersonalization. When these components are bestowed upon and in an appropriately fashioned morontia mind-body form, we awaken on the first mansion world of Jerusem. We continue our spiritual growth as morontia personalities exactly where we left off when mortal death overtook us and we progress through the system of Satania, the constellation of Norlatiadek, and arrive on Salvington. At some point in our local universe experience and growth we achieve the harmonization of our will with the Father's will. When we then have made a final and irrevocable choice for the eternal career, we are fused with our Thought Adjuster. We become one with the Father fragment and the Adjuster gains our personality; we, in turn, receive an immortal past and future. This new personality is given a permanent status in the universe.
Ascending mortals progressively discern God through the ministry of God the Sevenfold: Christ Michael, the Ancients of Days, the Seventh Master Spirit, the Supreme Being, God the Spirit, God the Son, and God the Father. This is the "spiritual ladder" by which we ascend the universe from planetary origin to Paradise. Upon completing our local universe training we will appear before our Sovereign, Christ Michael, and be granted those credentials which entitle us to proceed on our superuniverse career in Orvonton as first-stage spirits.
The entire universe is a great university of learning and achievement to prepare us for entrance into the Corps of the Finality on Paradise. On our upward journey, even as on Urantia, we meet with many trials and frustrations. "But long before reaching Havona, these ascendant children of time have learned to feast upon uncertainty, to fatten upon disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of immensity, and to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the inexplicable. Long since, the battle cry of these pilgrims became: ‘In liaison with God, nothing—absolutely noting—is impossible."
When we complete our training in the superuniverse, we are transported to Havona. Here we have specific educational tasks on each of one billion perfect worlds of the Central Universe. Comprehension is the key to progress in Havona. In time we are able to discern the Supreme Being, the Infinite Spirit, the Eternal Son, and the Universal Father. This is the passport of Paradise where we take the Trinity oath of eternity and are ushered into the Mortal Corps of the Finality. During this universe age Finaliters serve in the seven superuniverses but are, no doubt, destined to some future service in the universes of outer space. "You humans have begun an endless unfolding of an almost infinite panorama, a limitless expanding of never ending, ever-widening spheres of opportunity for exhilarating service, matchless adventure, sublime uncertainty, and boundless attainment."
Dynamics of Religious Experience
Religion is both the eternal foundation and the guiding star of civilization and culture. It is not a specific activity but a quality of life. Religion is a way of life shaped by a wholehearted dedication to some reality which the religionist regards to be of supreme value to himself or herself and to all humankind. It is a dimension which adds meaningfulness, worth, and zest to every aspect of living. Religion is the inner and outer behavior activity which results from our personal experience with truth, beauty, and goodness—God. From this experiential essence all of the phenomena of religion proliferates: its spiritual response in prayer and worship; its personal and social expression in ethics; its intellectualization in theology; and its institutionalization in social groups such as the church.
True religion is always a first hand experience of value and reality and should be distinguished from second hand beliefs and forms which we receive from our culture. It is individually unique, indigenous, and experientially acquired. Religion, therefore, cannot be learned or taught as can a theological belief or social custom; but it may be "caught" by contact with spiritually appealing personalities. A person's religion is defined by their value experience, not by the religious social group to which they belong or the name of the theological position with which they may intellectually identify.
Faith is rooted in first hand reality experience; belief is only an intellectual acceptance of certain theological-cultural concepts. Faith evolves and liberates; belief tends to fixate and enslave. Faith is creative and dynamic; belief is static, exclusive, and confining. Faith must be personal; beliefs may become group possessions. Since every person has different personal, intellectual, and social experience, they differ in religious experience; nonetheless, humanity can have religious unity without religious uniformity. People of good will may agree on spiritual goals and religious ideals.
Our supreme spiritual guidance is internal, contact with the indwelling Spirit of God. Spiritual guidance takes place primarily not through feelings and emotions but in our highest and most spiritualized thinking. Our thoughts, not our feelings, lead us Godward. Religion, therefore, prospers not by sight and emotion but by faith and insight. The acid test in religious discrimination and balance is distinguishing between the spiritual and the material realities while at the same time unifying these two diverse aspects of experience in the concrete process of living. Science develops knowledge; religion produces happiness; and philosophy seeks to unify the realm of fact with the experience of value. It is revelation, however, that truly integrates science, philosophy, and religion.
The inevitable result of all religious experience is dedication, commitment, and action. Service is the source of human fulfillment. "Service—more service, increased service, difficult service, adventurous service, and at last divine and perfect service —is the goal of time and the destination of space." Dedication to causes larger than our circumscribed personal world is the path by which genuine spiritual development takes place.
The Problem of Suffering
When we have through such living service verified and consolidated the reality of our highest thoughts and experiences, we generate a sublime trust in God despite bitter disappointments and crushing defeat. The power of such faith is seen in exhibiting inner poise and tranquility in the midst of disabling sickness and acute physical suffering. In the face of intellectual sophistries, crippling social antagonisms, and glaring injustice these pilgrims of the cosmic circles continue to worship God and serve their fellows with full inner confidence in spite of anything and everything which happens in human experience.
The confusion and turmoil on our world do not signify that the Paradise Creators lack either interest or ability to shape our planet differently. The evolutionary worlds are designed for character building. Between the anvils of necessity and the hammers of anguish the divine plan for finite achievement is forging out strong, noble, and experienced personalities preparing for the great adventure of eternity. With this supernal goal ahead of us and the supreme resources the Universal Father has provided, what does it matter if our world crashes about us? "When the flood tides of human adversity, selfishness, cruelty, hate, malice, and jealousy beat about the mortal soul, you may rest in the assurance that there is one inner bastion, the citadel of the spirit, which is absolutely unassailable; at least this is true of every human being who has dedicated the keeping of his soul to the indwelling spirit of the eternal God."
Characteristics of Growth
Growth is central in religion as in life. The soil essential to religious growth presupposes a life of progressive self-realization, the co-ordination and control of natural drives, the exercise of curiosity, and the enjoyment of discovery and adventure. Love, freedom, and courage are the most effective catalysis of religious growth; and its chief inhibitors are ignorance, prejudice, and egocentricity, often strongly supported by custom, tradition, dogma, and authority. All true spiritual growth starts from within and develops best when external pressures are at a minimum. We can supply favorable conditions for growth but religious growth is an unconscious process. Such spiritual development is always accompanied by psychological conflict and philosophical disturbance and requires a certain amount of intellectual, moral, and spiritual courage.
Evolutionary spiritual growth is augmented by revelation. Authentic revelation never pictures religion as out of harmony with the highest insights of ethics and reason and always binds together and stimulates the total life of humanity. The only trustworthy validation of revelation is experience. We may evaluate our spiritual growth by observing the degree to which we are motivated by love, the extent to which we are activated by unselfish service, and the completeness with which we are dominated by a wholehearted dedication to the will of God.
Prayer and Worship
Prayer and worship are the chief interior modes of religious expression. Whenever we have self-reference or petition in our relationship with God, this psychological activity is called prayer. If we engage in adoration, contemplation, or thanksgiving without self-reference, this spiritual attitude is referred to as worship; it is as an end in itself. Prayer is personal communion or fellowship with God designed to expand insight. It is both a sound psychological practice which augments self-realization and an effective spiritual technique to expand the soul. Prayer is not a technique to escape life's difficulties but a way in which we can learn to face conflict and suffering meaningfully and courageously. It does not change God but may change the person praying.
Primitive and immature prayer attempts to plead or bargain with God for health, wealth, power, or preference.Prayer cannot be used to circumvent universe laws or to gain selfish ends; nevertheless, the sincere prayer of faith, even if childish and materialistic, always contributes to the person's resources for effective living. Our spiritual level is revealed by the nature of our prayers. Words are not important in prayer; God responds only to the true and sincere attitudes of the mind and soul. We should pray for divine guidance to solve our human problems, not for some cosmic, miraculous solution. To pray effectively we must face reality honestly and intelligently, attempting to solve problems by the resources which we have, be dedicated to doing the will of God, and have living faith. Guidance which is received through prayer always needs to be tested by facts, reason, and wisdom.
Worship is the most creative human activity. It renews the mind, stimulates soul growth, eliminates insecurity and personality isolation, and greatly increases the resources of the individual. It is communion with God, the part identifying with the Whole. Worship should not be confused with psychic or mystical experiences. A true worship experience contributes to better physical health, more efficient use of the mind, healthier social relationships, more meaningful involvement in the routine duties of daily life, greater love and appreciation for truth, beauty, and goodness, and enhanced spiritual insight. If a spiritual experience does not pass this test, it is probably a form of psychic escapism. Worship is the highest privilege and the source of the greatest joy of all created beings. It is the supremely transforming experience.
Institutions and Theology
Religious experience finds social expression in service and the development of religious institutions. It is the paradox of religious history that the institutionalization of religion increases the potential for evil and hampers growth but is a necessary requisite for religious enculturation and survival. The solution to this paradox is not the eradication of religious institutions but in creating more perfect, spiritually attuned religious organizations. Such religious groups need an appealing symbolism incorporated in ritual which encourages and enhances individual and group worship, undergirds the values of the family, and furnishes fellowship and spiritual care for all of life from birth to death.
The chief dangers in the institutionalization of religion are: the fixation of philosophical-spiritual growth; the development of oppressive ecclesiastical authority; the diversion of service to God to the service of the institution; the accumulation of vested interests; and involvement in secular activities. Among its great potentials for spiritual ministry are the encouragement of religious growth through fellowship and service; the dramatization of spiritual realities in worship; and the provision of spiritual counsel and guidance. The religious organization should build its program around the activities of the family and furnish religious education through the creative discussion of religious issues.
Religious organizations achieve their highest social ministry when they have minimal connections with secular activities and institutions. They should be involved exclusively with religion and become the spiritual leaders of society. How these spiritual values, ideals, and goals are actualized, applied, and achieved in the culture must be determined by the various specialized groups and disciplines of society. Religionists should function in the larger society—in industry, politics, or social service—as individuals, not as religious groups, parties, or institutions.
When we attempt to understand and communicate our religious experience, it undergoes an intellectual process culminating in theology. Since religious experience is unique, theology tends to be individualistic. The prophets have led society in religious development while the theologians and priests have frequently held them back. This is because the prophetic mind stresses spiritual insight , values, and goals whereas theologians and priests attempt to define, intellectualize, organize, and systematize religious experience. Even more deadening, theologians tend to dampen and control their vital, first hand religious experience through scholarly concentration and discipline; so they methodically compile second hand religious intellectualization until they have thoroughly obscured the spiritual dynamics of the religious experience. Such theological crystallization leads to spiritual stagnation. Indeed, religion is much to important to leave to the control of religious professionals. The last word in the God-man relationship is with God!
The Supreme Integrator
The Universal Father has made religion the supreme stimulator and integrator of human experience. The religious person finds the resources to achieve a stability of personality and a tranquility of temperament which is not adequately explained by the laws of physiology, psychology, and sociology. The most fulfilling forms of human happiness are linked with spiritual growth. The greatest human adventure is the sane and balanced quest for growth toward God-consciousness which unifies physical, mental, and spiritual systems resulting in better health, greater mental efficiency, and a higher happiness. Spiritual development yields an inner joy and a deep peace of mind which, to a large degree, is independent of environmental conditions.
The culminating result of authentic religious experience is the development of a superbly balanced personality. This is most clearly seen when we observe the great religionists of the world. The unusual aspect of these great spirits is not their brilliance or perfection but the reality insight of their perception, the balance, integration, unification, and love of their personalities. Jesus of Nazareth is the noble and definitive representative of this growing host of the Father's children. The Urantia Book says, regarding Jesus,
He was surcharged with divine enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotionally active but never flighty. He was imaginative but always practical. He frankly faced the realities of life, but he was never dull or prosaic. He was courageous but never reckless; prudent but never cowardly. He was sympathetic but not sentimental; unique but not eccentric...Jesus was an unusually cheerful person, but he was not a blind and unreasoning optimist...He was candid but always kind...He was gentle and unassuming in his personal life, and yet he was the perfected man of a universe. His associates called him Master unbidden...
Jesus was the perfectly unified human personality. And today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to co-ordinate human endeavors. He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it.
The Urantia Book is unique in the universe. Revelation is usually brought to a planet by universe personalities. Because of the series of misfortunes which Urantia has experienced, we have suffered from a lack of historical spiritual continuity and perspective, and we have been almost totally ignorant of universe spiritual cosmology. It was no doubt the configuration of these deficiencies which resulted in the decision to present the Fifth Epochal Revelation in the form of a book. This approach has a number of advantages which seem to be particularly suited to minister to the handicaps of our world. The Urantia Book conveys an integrated picture of planetary and universe history and cosmology appropriate to our era of evolutionary development. It harmonizes science, philosophy, and religion in a holistic view of reality along with an enlarged presentation of spiritual truth and insight.
The book format of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is a structured and stable influence which will greatly facilitate consolidating and integrating planetary philosophy and education. It has an appreciation of all religions of the world and will be a powerful inspiration toward ecumenical fellowship and worship. The Urantia Book is ideally designed to augment the long term leavening influence of evolutionary development.