We are told that Albert Einstein once said “I think the most important question facing humanity is: ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” The oft-quoted remarks, never substantiated, supposedly made by the world’s most famous scientist to a reporter, raise another question: Why might a scientist come to such a conclusion?
Cosmologist, Michael Heller, gave us a clue. “The extremely precise fit of human existence into the structure of the universe is surprising at first, but after a while suggests various responses. The first thing that comes to mind is the principle of purposefulness. How did the initial conditions know how to fine-tune in order to make our existence possible? With such a high level of fine-tuning, the probability of a random occurrence seems negligible.” (New Scientist, 12 March, 2008)
Recognizing that the universe must have been made for a high purpose is part of the creative design that science is helping uncover. In philosophy, this is called teleology, explaining creation from the purpose it serves rather than from its causes.
I was introduced to The Urantia Book, The UB, by my wife shortly after Thanksgiving Day 1977, according to one of my journal entries. She’d told me she believed this was “a friendly universe.” Curiosity aroused, I wondered how’d she manage to have such an amazing thought? I had to know. And that’s what led to me accepting an invitation to visit her house. There she opened the big blue book to my wondering eyes!
Astounding as it is that we have been given such a universe, that it was even created this way, the revelation alone is not enough. Many believe otherwise, that it is founded on violent hatred, and daily experiences on planet Earth would certainly lead someone to that conclusion. The believers’ challenge is to reveal in our actions “the circuit of divine love” (5:6.12) that embraces all. Our planetary isolation makes the need more compelling. We must take this step in evolution though we falter and seem to fail. We must make creation’s inherent nature of friendliness manifest, and make the love of God real in our human experience on this lonely planet.
What if we could choose to live in full awareness of our inheritance as citizens of a friendly universe? If we could have such faith, why wouldn’t we choose it?
Have I experienced the universe as friendly? I often ask myself this question as I review the many times I’ve been rescued from disasters I created for myself. It was obvious that God and his angels were watching over me.
I often recall Jesus’ interpretation of the tale of Jonah and the whale that he offered to Gadiah in Joppa. “No matter into what great depths they may have fallen, when they seek the light with a whole heart, the spirit of the Lord God of heaven will deliver them from their captivity; the evil circumstances of life will spew them out upon the dry land of fresh opportunities for renewed service and wiser living." (130:1.2)
In The UB Jesus taught Fortune we can depend on the friendly support of physical reality itself; “You may be surrounded with small enemies and be retarded by many obstacles, but the big things and the real things of this world and the universe are on your side. The sun rises every morning to salute you just as it does the most powerful and prosperous man on earth.” (130:6.3, p. 1437)
In choosing to live by the “highest interpretation” of the golden rule, “spirit-led mortals … are filled to overflowing with the assurance of citizenship in a friendly universe.” (180:5.8)
Of course, faith in a friendly universe strengthens fellowship and inspires acts of true brotherhood. “The sincere religionist is conscious of universe citizenship and is aware of making contact with sources of superhuman power. He is thrilled and energized with the assurance of belonging to a superior and ennobled fellowship of the sons of God.” (100:6.3)
In a friendly universe we don’t succumb to pressures to conform, to follow accepted conventions and patterns of human behavior. We are “empowered” to offer our original expressions of the spirit. Jesus spoke about his universe as a gift of true freedom to all humankind. “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.” (141:5.1, pg. 1591)
Novels such as “1984,” which just recently rebounded into the current Top Ten book list, depict a harsh and cruel universe in which totalitarian regimes suppress originality and demand conformity. Our schools regularly offer young people these bleak and existential literary visions, while being confounded and baffled about how to teach them stories of love, service, and inspired purpose.
Other world religions have explored the truth of these ideas of empowerment and freedom. Before Jesus’s time, Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tze, was aware of the friendly universe. He taught his followers, “Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.” (Tao Te Ching, Verse 23).
So too the authors of the Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita (BG). They shared an awareness of cosmic support that, like Ganesha of the folk tales, would remove the stones in our pathway to the Supreme: “In all activities just depend upon me (the Supreme) and work always under my protection … If you become conscious of me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditional life by my Grace.” (BG, 18:57-58)
Indeed The UB goes into even greater detail about how our actions and decisions contribute to the growth of the Supreme, “the evolving God of time and space.” (0:2.15)
In Buddhism, one devotee taught, “Be on friendly terms with the universe. If you feel friendly toward the universe, the universe will feel friendly toward you.” (from a commentary on the Ratana Sutta, the Jewel Discourse) Hindu teachers understood that this friendliness will be reciprocated with love. “However men try to reach me I return their love with my love; whatever path they may travel, it leads to me in the end.” (BG 4.11)
Jesus revealed the true glory of the universe in his acts of love and devotion. “The Master has taught the apostles that they are the sons of God. He has called them brethren, and now, before he leaves, he calls them his friends.” (180:1.6)
Sources: Fuller rendition of the Einstein Q: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=797
Also see: wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein#Misattributed
Interview with Heller: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13454-qa-2008-templeton-prize-winner/
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