I decided to respond to the Atlantic magazine’s recent survey. “Tell us: have you been part of a new religious movement,” https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2017/08/new-religious-movement/534513/. I was trying to finish a poem about a visit to tide pools on the Pacific Coast, when I accidentally revisited a phase of my life in my notebooks of 1977. I saw how far I had fallen. It was the same year I was introduced to The Urantia Book. Along with the friendships I made in sharing the teachings, The UB saved my life. Like Jonah who sought “God and his goodness,” I was offered new possibilities for the future. “The evil circumstances of life will spew [disheartened souls] out upon the dry land of fresh opportunities for renewed service and wiser living." (130:1.2)
Soon after Chappell introduced me to The UB, she took me to Salmon Creek beach on the Sonoma Coast to show me the friendly universe she’d told me about. I knew these beaches well. In my early days traveling through California, looking for a place to live and play music, my friends and I had camped there. We’d written songs to the constellations, sung Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” around the campfire on the, “windy beach far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow,” danced “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea.”
Here I was again, where sea meets sky and earth, with my new love. The incoming tide reflected billowing clouds where kelp forest and sea grass were washed flat by wave, whoosh and swirl. When the surge of tidewater paused and subsided, such moments of calm offered pictures of clarity in the many hued tide pools, where, like descending angels, the stars had left the wide open blue of empty sky to reincarnate as ochraceous starfish.
My soul mingled with the purple sea urchins, and scuttled with the hermit crabs dragging their borrowed shells, wiser ones hiding under shelves of stone or in waving tentacles of green anemones. I too had a shell like crab, too much like it, full of terror, hiding, protecting myself from the hurt, the reality, of being in love. A friend’s voice was singing to me, “let the seas rush in, let the sea gulls fly;” and I prayed that earth’s glory would meet my struggle for words to speak what this stumbling heart was feeling. Let there be a place for my devotion; may I find righteous deeds to do.
The tide washing in and out symbolized my old view of an impersonal universe. It represented the alternating conditions of good and evil where Good only randomly triumphed before Evil overcame it.
“The will of God is divine truth, living love; therefore are the perfecting creations of the evolutionary universes characterized by goodness—nearness to divinity … “ (3:6.2)
The UB saved my life, rescued me from the old reality that was not serving me well. In my volunteer work at the Family of God Foundation, I benefited from its teachings and learned to pray to a personal god, my Father.
Perhaps terror shows its face in nature, poses dangers in pounding surf, rip tides, and raging water. Yet sky, sea, beach, stars, fish, kelp combine to show me their true and beautiful intention, a loving panorama of the cosmos. In my deep mind, new possibilities were born for the future where I believed I had run out of opportunities and had none left. My life was about to change for the better.
Though we are urged in The Urantia Book (The UB) to progress beyond the primitive human tendency to read significance into our dreams, some of us still love to discover a guiding message, perhaps supernatural or providential, in our night visions. The warning we get is that it is “extremely dangerous to postulate as to the Adjuster content” of our dreams, even though they “do work during sleep.” (The UB, 110:5.5) In spite of these disclaimers, there are many examples of how dreams served an important function in our religious evolution, bringing changes that we should all feel grateful for: there is, “The dream origin of the belief in a future existence … [that] began effectively to antidote the death fear;” (86:4.2) and the story of the prophet Zoroaster who, “as the result of a dream while in Ur, … settled upon a program of returning to his northern home to undertake the remodeling of the religion of his people.” (95:6.2)
The dreams that took place at the birth of Jesus may have been instigated by seraphim rather than an indwelling spirit monitor (Adjuster). “Joseph did not become reconciled to the idea that Mary was to become the mother of an extraordinary child until after he had experienced a very impressive dream.” (122:4.1) Also, Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, only believed Elizabeth’s account of Gabriel’s visit, “after he had an unusual dream.” (135:0.1) These dream messages kept peace in the family and guided the men, who were perhaps feeling left out of such important events, to come to terms with their fate.
The famous “wise men” of song and story were guided by a religious teacher of Mesopotamia who “had a dream in which he was informed that "the light of life" was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews.” (122:8.6)
I have never been one to devote myself very much to dream interpretation, though I admit I’ve attempted it once in a while (see previous blog, http://www.urantiabook.org/dave-holt/dreams-celestial-messengers-and-the-light-of-life). So it was, that with my alternating mental backdrop of doubt and belief, on the night before Father’s Day (June 18th this year), I experienced one of those, “disordered and garbled” dreams we are cautioned against interpreting or speculating on by an Archangel of Nebadon, the author of paper 44:4.7.
My night visitation started out with a frightening scene on a high freeway overpass where I watched a man who, in turn, was watching his burned car (fire out, smoldering). There wasn’t much I could do, yet my service motive was obviously operating in low gear (I don’t remember offering help) – not such a noble beginning to what became a visionary experience. Soon after this traumatic beginning, I drove to San Francisco from Oakland and came upon what I was told in my dream was the River Thames. Many seasons of watching British television have familiarized me with the broad, impressive features of the Thames. I knew clearly this was not London, England’s river. Rather this was something far grander, more Paradise-like than that. The brilliant greens of the riverbanks, the dazzling blues of the summer sky, the sparkling waters that flowed and danced over the rocks, the people enjoying the park-like setting, the horses grazing nearby, created a vision of great beauty that declared the glory of God. “This is a glorification of God” was the very thought in my mind as I woke up on Father’s Day morning.
I sat down and wrote a tribute to my father in honor of the day, filled with this spirit of honoring his love, glorifying God my divine Father and Bob, my earthly father, at the same time.
Now here’s the irony, and I know Dr. Jung, interpreter of dreams, would appreciate the synchronicity. My father was born in London, Ontario, not far from the Canadian River Thames flowing through that city. However, it was not even the smaller version of the Thames in my dream. I believed it was a stream flowing out of the high heavens.
This is part of my Father’s Day Facebook post about Dad’s youth that brought many reactions in honor of his memory, “The Great Depression was the pivotal event for my dad, years when he was forced, or maybe chose (to be less of a burden on the family), to wander through the cold Canadian provinces seeking work. These were his teenage years—a transient and homeless time for him, as with many. … Like many survivors of the Dirty Thirties, Dad sang through the hard times; songs sustained him … I imagined him sitting atop the rolling boxcars, singing to high heaven while riding the rails, and I bet he got the other men to join in. He had a way of doing that.” https://www.facebook.com/OjibwayDescendant/posts/10154510800741078?pnref=story
Many people praised my father’s “triumph when others would have crumbled;” “he was a brave and courageous man;” “wise beyond his years;” “amazing person … he brought himself up.”
Namaste, Dad. “The god within me honors the god within you,"
I was on my way to Unity in San Leandro to do some music ministry, first time at this church, when I spilled my coffee all over the front seat. Fortunately the java deluge missed drenching my clothes so I didn’t have to drive home to change my shirt. When I asked my angels, “That’s the only bad thing that will happen today, right?” perhaps they were laughing. For sure, they were helping me to laugh about it.
Sunday’s theme at Unity was “power” so the singer had chosen songs to reflect it. What a relief to be talking about spiritual power for a change, rather than the power of money or politics. While I waited in the spring sun for someone to arrive and open up the church, I meditated on the theme, power that comes to assist the believer from the Spirit within.
“Faith is to religion what sails are to a ship; it is an addition of power, not an added burden of life.” (The Urantia Book, The UB,
159:3.8) As Jesus taught, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light (Matthew 11:30).”
I sometimes wish I could help young people in our community who suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, even being unforgiven for their weaknesses. The culmination of such an inner darkness is depression, perhaps more commonly manic depression. We hope for the chance to tell them about the added power of faith.
I confess to a tendency to the belief, as an adult, that I’ve overcome phases of manic depression that I went through in my own young adult life. When honestly confronting myself, however, I realize there are still times I have to battle the demons back into their corner. One helpful attitude I have learned as a grown-up is to be unafraid to seek help from the indwelling spirit. But too many young people are afraid to look within. We must help them trust the process and pray for an opportunity when it feels right to offer it.
“The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.” (Ramakrishna)
“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.” (100:2.7)
In my early years of reading The Urantia Book, I made a pledge to follow the instructions Jesus gave to Fortune, The Young Man Who Was Afraid. I learned to “set [my] mind at work to solve its problems; teach [my] intellect to work for [me]; refuse longer to be dominated by fear like an unthinking animal. Your mind should be your courageous ally in the solution of your life problems rather than your being, as you have been, its abject fear-slave and the bond servant of depression and defeat.” (130:6.3) This requires progress in self-mastery as well as faith.
We can gain renewed confidence from prayer, being energized by “divinely creative” power (143:7.5) when we attain worshipful moments in our praying that add the power to transform. The UB compares our acts of faith to the action of a spiritual engine, a load-lifting lever. “In executing those decisions which deliver you from the fetters of fear, you literally supply the psychic fulcrum on which the Adjuster may subsequently apply a spiritual lever of uplifting and advancing illumination.” (108:5.8)
“… choosing to do the will of God joins spiritual faith to material decisions in personality action and thus supplies a divine and spiritual fulcrum for the more effective functioning of the human and material leverage of God-hunger.” (110:6.17)
Jesus taught his apostles that such a fulcrum could also be leveraged for social and economic solutions, “Religion is the exclusively spiritual experience of the evolving immortal soul of the God-knowing man, but moral power and spiritual energy are mighty forces which may be utilized in dealing with difficult social situations and in solving intricate economic problems.”(156:5.10)
This kind of faith is given a new term in the Urantia Book, a “power-presence,” as Jesus described it to Fortune, “Begin your deliverance from the evils of inaction by the power-presence of living faith.” (130:6.3)Such a faith as he taught is not passive, nor “a burden.” It is a powerful assault on what can seem like insurmountable problems, a spiritual force for solutions. Sometimes I can’t imagine how I would survive in this world without the added power of faith.
The rest of my Sunday worship at Unity went beautifully and as I’d suspected, nothing else bad happened beyond the coffee stain on my car seat. A Unity service will often quote from one of their founders, Charles Fillmore. About power he states, “Power is man's innate control over his thoughts [and] feelings. A quickening from on high must precede his realization of dominion. "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). God is All-Power, thus all things are possible with Him.”Read More
I wrote a short essay/story about a community of artists among whom I lived some decades ago, and posted it so the others who were still in touch could read and comment. My piece ended this way, “I was on a quest for beauty and truth in my life. We lived in a surfeit of beauty. Nature was profligate with her bounty of beauty in rural, undeveloped Sonoma County. But what of truth? Was this it? Were we discovering a life to match our dreams, a life closer to our more authentic selves?”
One friend commented on the post, “Who doesn’t want a life to match their dreams? My dream was to be in a community of creative people and the circumstances we all shared attracted people who had a lot to offer. There was a seamlessness between our inner and outer lives that I wanted to keep on feeling.”
During my time in this community, I was in a phase of recovery and rehabilitation; I regained the urge to grow as a person, to make progress in my life. I felt a revival of desire, a zest for life. We were all fortunate to have the support of love and respect from friends.
“Know yourself” was written on the forecourt of the Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi, in the 6th century BC. It was inscribed there by the seven sages, the founders of Greek philosophy. Jesus extended this Greek watchword to include, “Knowing God and yourself as a son of God,” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 5:4.8) becoming the most real self one can be, close to that divine spark that carries our true purpose.
In further meditations about the most authentic self, I recalled, “When Thought Adjusters indwell human minds, they bring with them the model careers, the ideal lives, as determined and foreordained by themselves and the Personalized Adjusters of Divinington, which have been certified by the Personalized Adjuster of Urantia. Thus they begin work with a definite and predetermined plan for the intellectual and spiritual development of their human subjects, but it is not incumbent upon any human being to accept this plan.” (The UB, 110:2.1)
The Greek way leads to a knowing of one’s psychology, a psychoanalytic understanding of emotions, and the likely acquirement of a philosophy of life. However, it is a knowing that is more static than the dynamic knowledge of sonship, which by experiencing the love of the Father and learning to do his will, we place ourselves on a continuum of progress and growth, not simply an analysis of where we are. In sonship we feel encouragement and support of the purpose for which we were created.
“The highest happiness is indissolubly linked with spiritual progress.”(The UB, 100:4.3)
When I’m not in a place of close communion with the Father, I fall into an old pattern of measuring myself by external factors related to my writing career: how many publishing credits I’ve received, Facebook likes, invitations to read my work?
In the medical building one morning, I waited quite a while for the doctor to show up. I had time to look out the window at a wintry sky and meditate on being a son of God, learning to trust in his guiding presence. Barren trees awaited the budding out of spring. Plain, unadorned birds, possessing no particularly bright colors, flitted from branch to branch, expressing their joy and delight in just being birds, contented with the gift of their natural state, free from fear or anxiety. As I followed their flight, I too enjoyed my soul at rest in a renewed friendship with God, and was thankful for the blessing of old friends still in my life.Read More
People have frequently asked us how we, Chappell and I, have done it. How have we stayed together over 39 years. It’s been difficult to give a short answer. Or we find ourselves speechless. On our 25th anniversary, with the help of many friends, we put on a large party at Larry Geis’s house in Sebastopol to celebrate the enduring love in our relationship. For the ceremony part, we put together some true quotes about the great bestowal of love, the powerful circuit that upholds this planet, the Great Circle. Here, with some new additions, is a long answer:
“Love is a striving, a seeking for that which is higher and greater than oneself.” (Plato, in Needleman’s The Heart of Philosophy)
“When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
“More handsome men might promise
To verb your noun or noun your verb,
But wife, for you, every Wednesday night,
I’ll drag the garbage to the curb…” (From Sherman Alexie, Marriage Song)
“Love is the outworking of the divine and inner urge of life.” (Jesus, The Urantia Book, p. 1898; 174:1.5)
“Love is the ancestor of all spiritual goodness, the essence of the true and beautiful.”
(Jesus to John, The Urantia Book, p. 1950; 192:2.1)
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments; Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his highth be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come; love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon my proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
(Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare)
From the Truth, Beauty and Goodness paper (Urantia Book, p. 646; 56:10.19)
“…truth, beauty, and goodness embrace the full revelation of divinity reality. As this love-comprehension of Deity finds spiritual expression in the lives of God-knowing mortals, there are yielded the fruits of divinity: intellectual peace, social progress, moral satisfaction, spiritual joy, and cosmic wisdom. Advanced mortals … have learned that love is the greatest thing in the universe--and they know that God is love.”
“Love is the desire to do good to others.” (A Mighty Messenger, The UB, 56:10.21)
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. (Mother to Son, Langston Hughes)
“You are destined to live a narrow and mean life if you learn to love only those who love you. Human love may indeed be reciprocal, but divine love is outgoing in all its satisfaction-seeking. The less of love in any creature's nature, the greater the love need, and the more does divine love seek to satisfy such need. Love is never self-seeking, and it cannot be self-bestowed. Divine love cannot be self-contained; it must be unselfishly bestowed.” (Jesus teaching at Tyre, The UB, 156:5.11)
Chappell and I together have lived with the challenges and ideals of love as a goal and we’ve helped each other to grow towards and with them.