The Second Enlightenment
by Bill Grantstaff
Epochal revelations are frustrating. They are frustrating because, unlike personal spiritual revelations, they are by definition revelations meant to transform and enhance every individual's spiritual life. Thus those of us who espouse this revelation find ourselves living a very paradoxical existence. I use the word "paradoxical" because, while we marvel at The Urantia Book's transformation of our own perspectives, we may sometimes find ourselves troubled by the huge numbers of our preoccupied and disinterested brethren. Due to this revelation's immediately personal spiritual focus, its macro-sociological consequences may be many years away. Therefore, many of us find ourselves struggling with a demon of sorts. Now of course, this is not one of those Halloween demons that lifts us up above our beds, scares our mothers, or makes our skin change color. Rather it is a mind demon that whines and scoffs. It whines for some truly momentous world event that would undeniably validate the Truths of the Urantia Book, while it scoffs at the subjective validation we get from our own souls.
I would wager that all of us in the Urantia movement have experienced this demon at one time or another. We deal with it as best we can. But there is in fact something afoot in the world--something that this demon might find very interesting. I am therefore writing this essay as a sacrifice to our communal "demon-of-the-whine-and-scoff." There will be two acts in the sacrificial ritual: the first will consist of familiarizing our demon with a momentous world event; the second will present an appropriate context for interpreting this momentous world event, i.e., a context within which our demon will be compelled to recognize this event as the Supreme's final macro-institutional preparation for the fifth epochal revelation. This essay will argue that (1) the planet has reached a consensus in favor of economic and political liberalism; (2) humanity's three macro-institutional categories--economic, political, and religious--have a history of adopting each others' essential canons, and that economic and political liberalism are largely results of just such an institutional osmosis; (3) it is logical to induce from (1) and (2) that religion, being the only remaining macro-institutional category that remains largely authoritarian/non-liberal, will soon complement liberal political and economic institutions by adopting liberal principles also; and finally, (4) The Urantia Book is liberal religion.
In the summer of 1989 the Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, Francis Fukuyama, published an article in The National Interest entitled "The End of History?," in which he raised an intellectual tempest by announcing the "...unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism" over all "...viable systematic alternatives" (p.3). He wrote: "What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government" (p.4).
Fukuyama characterizes the twentieth century as a period of ideological struggle that pitted two alternative ideologies, fascism and communism, against liberalism. At the beginning of the twentieth century liberalism in Europe and the United States had many chronic problems. Fascists and communists blamed them upon liberalism's inherent contradictions. By fascist and communist lights these problems were the creation, not of inferior people, inferior decisions or non-liberal historical influences, but of the liberal structure and philosophy itself. Thus, these problems could not be resolved within the context of modern liberalism.
Fukuyama writes that fascism and communism arose as alternative systems. Fascism emerged in the early twentieth century in response to liberalism's problems of political weakness, materialism, moral relativism, and lack of community spirit. World War II and humanity's rejection of ultranationalism--with its promise of unending conflict--subsequently consigned fascism to history's proverbial dustbin. Communism, however, was a more serious challenge (p.9).
Marx asserted that liberalism's inherent contradictions were epitomized by the irreconcilable interests of capital vs. the interests of labor.(see Tucker 1978,192). Lenin and Stalin created one of world history's most profound social disasters, the Soviet Union, in the name of resolving this so-called liberal contradiction. But as we know today and as Fukuyama pointed out in his 1989 article, Marxism as an ideology has lost all credibility. Notwithstanding the Tiananmen incident, even communist China is moving in a liberal direction. China's southern province is a center of entrepreneurial activity and special enterprise zones have proliferated among its major cities.
And what of the contradiction Marx referred to--that of capital and labor? Fukuyama holds that it is largely resolved in the contemporary liberal welfare democracy. "Though there are rich people and poor people, capital and labor, the root causes of economic inequality have more to do with individuals' premodern cultural and social characteristics than with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist" (Fukuyama 1989, p.9). Fukuyama holds that the economic problems that remain subsequent to the planet's application of political and economic liberalism are solvable merely by "...economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns and the satisfying of consumer demands" (p.18). Fukuyama remarks wistfully that "Perhaps the very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again" (p.18). But is "history" really over? Has humanity already discovered the most profound macro-institutional structures?
Even in the most advanced liberal democracies many of the problems that spawned fascism and Marxism, i.e., political weakness, materialism, moral relativism, lack of community spirit, and the huge gap between the rich and poor, remain as severe obstacles to the public good notwithstanding Fukuyama's "fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist" liberalism. Several problems have gotten decidedly worse since Fukuyama's 1989 article. It is important to note, however, that these problems' persistence in no way contradicts Fukuyama's fundamental observation, i.e., the planetary consensus concerning political and economic liberalism; instead, their presence implies that Fukuyama's social therapeutic scheme of "boring" "...economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns and the satisfying of consumer demands" may be incomplete. The implication is that "the end of history" may not have occurred. There is more significant history to make; but it is perhaps "history" of a different character. This new history is where The Urantia Book comes in. But before pursuing the nature of this new history, I must more carefully define one of this essay's most important terms.
If we assume that Fukuyama's fundamental thesis is correct--and I believe it is--that liberal economics and politics is now the accepted planetary norm, what has humankind finally accepted? Fukuyama never precisely defines liberalism (there may be no universally accepted definition); but a definition is required for the purposes of this essay. Robert Fowler writes that liberalism consists of three closely related principles: "(1) a commitment to skeptical reason, an affirmation of pragmatic intelligence, and an uneasiness about both abstract philosophical thinking and nonrational modes of knowledge; (2) enthusiasm in principle (and increasingly in practice) for tolerance not only in political terms but much more obviously in terms of lifestyle and social norms; (3) affirmation of the central importance of the individual and individual freedom" (1989, p. 4).
When Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 he articulated liberalism as applied to economics:
The natural effort which every man is continually making to better his own condition is the principle which keeps the economic mechanism in activity. The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition is the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived (qtd. in Morrow p.65).
Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempt to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employment most suitable to the interest of society (qtd. in Friedman p.20).
The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights among many other Western national systems applied liberalism to politics. John Stuart Mill, in his famous essay "On Liberty" offered another very succinct canon of liberalism--subsequently known as the "Harm Principle." This principle affirms that
...the sole end for which mankind is warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any one, is self-protection, and that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise.
To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign (qtd. in Diggs p.190).
Put very simply, nations that adopt essentially laissez-faire economic policy and liberal democracy articulate liberalism as applied to economics and politics.
With liberalism now more or less defined I can now conclude this section by pointing out that the scholarly community by and large agrees with one part of Fukuyama's argument--that the world community has, in spirit if not in fact, adopted the liberal economic and political paradigm, and that there appear to be no more credible alternatives. This is a momentous world event by virtually any standard. But the event's implications are likewise momentous, especially for those of us in the Fifth Epochal Fellowship. In the next section I will discuss these implications and the role that The Urantia Book may play in the world events that follow.
Sociologists, historians, anthropologists, political scientists and others have arbitrarily divided humankind's social institutions into three general categories: political institutions, economic institutions and religious institutions. Fukuyama presents a convincing argument that two out of three of the planet's major social institutions--those of politics and economics--have adopted liberal norms and parameters. If I might be allowed the use of some inductive logic, it would appear that the next phase of planetary social evolution and ideological conflict will concern the adoption of liberal principles by the third and final category of social institutions--the planet's religious establishment. And conveniently enough, it is at just this time that The Urantia Book appears. But before dealing with The Urantia Book's role in this upcoming struggle I must answer a very important question concerning the feasibility of my implication/hypothesis. Would it be unusual for the world's three macro-institutions (political, economic and religious) to borrow philosophies and norms from each other?
In order to illustrate the precedent for this brand of institutional osmosis I will briefly highlight several important aspects of European political/economic and religious evolution. Aristotle (384-322 B.C. ) undertook, principally in Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics, to construct a science of the polis. He understood the polis or city/state as an association whose primary purpose was the formation of character--a means of creating quality citizens (Diamond 1976, p.79). For him the polis was an instrument by which the statesman could make the citizenry self-sufficient in goods, and fine-tune personality unification; it was as much concerned as any church with the virtue of its citizens (Diggs p.11-12). But it is important to emphasize that Aristotle and the Athenians of his time had no true religion worthy of the name. Their system of gods was more an intellectual creation than a standard for normative valuations. Thus Aristotle's concept of the polis naturally included elements that were soon to fall under other jurisdictions. There was absolutely no separation of political, economic or religious institutions.
Christianity radically transformed Aristotle's classic state concept. And it is here that we see an example of how a wholly religious concept modified a political/economic concept. Saint Paul said "For ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (qtd in Diggs p.17), and later the Christian Church became the representative of the Word of God. Thus the Christian could quote Aristotle in arguing that civil law was subject to the judgment of higher authority; but in claiming that the way to salvation and virtue was in the Church, as distinguished from the state, he broke sharply with Aristotle's tradition of the polis. The Christian Church created the impetus for one of Western civilization's most important social norms--the separation of church and state. The function of the state was distinctly limited and a person's greatest good was to be found outside its jurisdiction--in the Church. Thus a religious concept profoundly changed the political/economic institutions.
Over several hundred years this separation of church and state, the Christian concept of all persons being equally the children of God, plus the slow modernization of Europe led to what is today called the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment's most important economic/political/philosophic result is called "liberalism." Liberalism was derived from the philosophies and attitudes of such great thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith, Rene Descartes, the Baron de La Montesquieu, and later Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The following point is very important: liberalism is the epitome of political/economic institutions borrowing important concepts from religious institutions. Liberalism has articulated in the political and economic sphere the vital Christian axiom that all men are equally children of God, and expanded it into the sentiments of basic white male equality and the three principles I advanced previously: (1) a commitment to skeptical reason and an uneasiness about both abstract philosophical thinking and nonrational modes of knowledge, (2) tolerance, and (3) affirmation of individual freedom .
Except for Locke--and even his case may be argued--none of the great European philosophical contributors to liberalism from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries was an orthodox Christian. But the classic liberal thinkers simply did not propose to separate religion from their liberal political and social thought. Indeed, for all of them religion was integral to liberalism, most commonly as a philosophical and/or practical base that would maintain a cohesive moral standard, a grounding for the social order (Fowler, p.10-11). Thus liberalism was designed to work hand in hand with religion to provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberalism by itself was never intended to do more than provide economic and political security and enfranchise the individual to make significant political and economic choices.
One of the most important political results of liberal thought was the subsequent overthrow of European monarchies and their replacement by liberal democratic political institutions. But it is at this point in European history that religious institutional influence changed in character. Whereas before, Christian theology drew political and economic progress forward via its axiom that all are equally the children of God, now, as a result of the Church's closeness to the European monarchical regimes--especially the Catholic states, it stood against the very forces of progressive liberal democracy that its influence had nurtured. And when the citizens, especially the intellectuals, overthrew these monarchies they also rejected the Church and Christianity (Warren W. Wagar, 1982).
In 1835 a troubled Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "Christianity, which has declared all men equal in the sight of God, cannot hesitate to acknowledge all citizens equal before the law. But by a strange concatenation of events, religion for the moment has become entangled with those institutions which democracy overthrows, and so it is often brought to rebuff the equality which it loves and to abuse freedom as its adversary, whereas by taking it by the hand it could sanctify its striving" (1968, p.16).
Thus many Europeans could not separate Christianity's spiritual message from its political and economic message, and, with the French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848, the European Church and Christianity were severely discredited. While European intellectuals perceived Christianity and modernity as opposites and many European commoners saw Christianity as the monarchy's prostitute, European religious institutions refused to accept liberalism's invigorating principles enfranchising individual choice--the very principles that had grown naturally from Christianity's own theology. The Church elected to become instead and in essence a thing apart. Liberalism, on the other hand, found itself standing naked, as it were, with its individualism and self-interest exposed and unmitigated by a relevant transcendent faith. And thus the stage was set for the horrors of the twentieth century.
Shortly after the Revolutions of 1848, due to increasing industrialization, mobilization and information, heretofore unnoticed problems began to bubble to the surface. Karl Marx saw these problems as the result of internal contradictions of capitalism. That the problems might have had a spiritual cause likely never entered Marx's thoughts. He was, after all, an intellectual. After WWI the fascists saw European society's political weakness, moral relativism, and absence of community spirit. And once again the thought that a more relevant and efficient spiritual system might be the solution to European liberalism's problems never occurred to European leaders. As far as the fascists and communists were concerned, Europe's social pathologies' only solution was a radically different political/economic system. Two world wars, a cold war, trillions of dollars, and many tens of millions of lives were squandered in the conflicts that followed. Thus, as Fukuyama has written, the twentieth century has experienced the costly trial and rejection of both fascism and communism as alternatives to liberalism. Liberalism has been declared, as of the dissolution of communism and the publication of Fukuyama's article, the winner.
To summarize, I have described how European political and economic institutions were transformed by adopting superior religious concepts. There is thus precedent for these three institutions to carry on symbiotically--each nurturing the others. I have also shown that since liberalism's birth this symbiosis has changed in character. Now for the final element of my argument. Assuming for the moment that I am correct, that religion does sooner or later adopt liberal principles, what would this religion look like? I will now take Robert Boothe Fowler's three liberal principles and apply them to the spiritual medium.
- Liberal Principle #1: "...a commitment to skeptical reason, an affirmation of pragmatic intelligence, and an uneasiness about both abstract philosophical thinking and nonrational modes of knowledge".
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #1: Liberal religion will require a religionist to sincerely evaluate spiritual theories--theologies--in relation to his/her own experience. It would by no means require rejection of them all. It would require mutable theologies and careful validation of appropriate abstract thoughts by observation in the empirical world.
- Liberal Principle #2: "...enthusiasm in principle (and increasingly in practice) for tolerance not only in political terms but much more obviously in terms of lifestyle and social norms."
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #2: Liberal religion will respect other religionists' belief systems. And, with qualifications similar to those that liberalism requires of economics and politics will allow virtually complete spiritual freedom.
- Liberal Principle #3: "...affirmation of the central importance of the individual and individual freedom" .
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #3: Liberal religion would hold that the individual has the right to have his/her own concept of God. The individual's own concept of God is hereby enfranchised by the world's religious institutions.
The previous example of liberalism applied to the spirit medium should sound familiar. The liberal spiritual principles embody some of the most important spiritual concepts in The Urantia Book. I will now cite some specific examples that demonstrate how The Urantia Book validates and complements these principles.
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #1/Urantia Complement: The proof that revelation is revelation is this same fact of human experience: the fact that revelation does synthesize the apparently divergent sciences of nature and the theology of religion into a consistent and logical universe philosophy, a co-ordinated and unbroken explanation of both science and religion, thus creating a harmony of mind and satisfaction of spirit which answers in human experience those questionings of the mortal mind which craves to know how the Infinite works out his will and plans in matter, with minds, and on spirit (The Urantia Book 1955, p.1106).
- Reason is the proof of science, faith the proof of religion, logic the proof of philosophy, but revelation is validated only by human experience (p. 1106).
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #2/Urantia Complement: From this day, for the remainder of his natural life, Ganid continued to evolve a religion of his own. He was mightily moved in his own mind by Jesus' broadmindedness, fairness, and tolerance (my emphasis). In all their discussions of philosophy and religion this youth never experienced feelings of resentment or reactions of antagonism (p.1467).
- Nathaniel most revered Jesus for his tolerance. He never grew weary of contemplating the broadmindedness and generous sympathy of the Son of Man (p.1559).
- Liberal Spiritual Principle #3/Urantia Complement: But I have come among you to proclaim a greater truth, one which many of the later prophets also grasped, that God loves you--every one of you--as individuals' (p.1629).
- The religion of the kingdom is personal, individual; the fruits, the results, are familial, social. Jesus never failed to exalt the sacredness of the individual as contrasted with the community (p.1862).
James Zebedee had asked, "Master, how shall we learn to see alike and thereby enjoy more harmony among ourselves?" When Jesus heard this question, he was stirred within his spirit, so much so that he replied: "James, James, when did I teach you that you should all see alike? I have come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God. I do not desire that social harmony and fraternal peace shall be purchased by the sacrifice of free personality and spiritual originality. What I require of you, my apostles, is spirit unity--and that you can experience in the joy of your united dedication to the wholehearted doing of the will of my Father in heaven." (p. 1591).
And finally, the passage that ensures the liberal dignity of The Urantia Book itself:
"Partial, incomplete, and evolving intellects would be helpless in the master universe, would be unable to form the first rational thought pattern, were it not for the innate ability of all mind, high or low, to form a universe frame in which to think. If mind cannot fathom conclusions, if it cannot penetrate to true origins, then will such mind unfailingly postulate conclusions and invent origins that it may have a means of logical thought within the frame of these mind-created postulates. And while such universe frames for creature thought are indispensable to rational intellectual operations, they are, without exception, erroneous to a greater or lesser degree.
Conceptual frames of the universe are only relatively true; they are serviceable scaffolding which must eventually give way before the expansions of enlarging cosmic comprehension." (p.1260)
The previous examples are merely representative of the overarching liberal spirit of The Urantia Book. The book's central concept, that each individual is indwelt by a fragment of the Father, validates liberalism's most profound principle--the importance of the individual--throughout eternity. The teachings of The Urantia Book are, in effect and in spirit, liberalism applied to religion.
So the stage has been set. Christ's first visit to Urantia transformed Europe's religious institutions with the message that every woman, man, boy, or girl was a child of God. Later this religious concept and the concept of the Christian Church as an institution of God led to a political event that revolutionized European history: the separation of church and state. Still later the world's political and economic institutions borrowed the salient Christian concept of spiritual equality and enfranchised individual political and economic liberty under the banner of liberalism. The results were astounding. As Fukuyama has pointed out, today, with the dissolution of communism virtually all the world's nations understand and accept in their various contexts political and economic liberalism. The Supreme has done its work well.
And now is the time for the Spirit of Christ to come full circle--from the religious institutions that taught spiritual equality, to political and economic institutions that supported the primacy of the individual, and now finally back again to the religious institutions which will one day enfranchise individual spiritual choices. This is where The Urantia Book answers a critical evolutionary need. Today, high politics and economics define liberalism in as many different ways as there are experts--and there are many experts. Although I believe it is inevitable, it could take many decades for a liberalism so loosely defined in terms of politics and economics to slowly seep into the religious establishment. For the liberal message to efficiently transform world religious institutions it must be sufficiently focused on the spiritual. The Urantia Book systematically defines liberalism in spiritual terms. The time for the struggle approaches.
Robert Booth Fowler writes that current membership in mainline Protestant churches--the churches attended largely by the educated elites in America, is well below their 1950's proportionate strength of the total U.S. population and in absolute numbers (1989, p.96). Further, these churches are losing a good number of their young adults (20-35 years old) "...because they are simply no longer interested in religion, certainly organized religion, though they normally claim to believe in God and even to have spiritual interests of some sort" p.22-23). Andrew Greeley comments that Catholics "...blithely practice a selective (or individualistic and subjective) Catholicism, choosing those parts of the religion they like and ignoring or even denouncing those parts they don't like" (1984, ch. 1).
Liberalism is slowly seeping in, like it or not. But many of the people Fowler and Greeley describe are political leaders, managers of businesses, lawyers, doctors and educators who wander around in a spiritual nether world, making important decisions outside the context of salient transcendent faiths. The religion that these people are searching for is liberalized religion--the religion of Jesus--the religion described in The Urantia Book. Just as the Christian Church provided the inspiration for liberalism's transformation of the political and economic world, The Urantia Book expresses a liberalism that will inspire the transformation of the world's religions into institutions capable of answering the spiritual needs of a liberal world, and in so doing The Urantia Book/liberal religion will finally resolve the contradictions that have tormented so many souls in the twentieth century.
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