Presented at the First Western Urantia Conference
by Philip Calabrese and Robert Hunt
1. There are several items I would like to touch upon today and the first of these should be our college course on the Urantia Book: During the first quarter of the 1972-73 academic year at California State College, Bakersfield, a one credit hour course entitled "An Introduction to the Urantia Book" was conducted by Dr. Robert Hunt, chairman of the mathematics department and myself, also of the mathematics department. The course consisted of a total of five two-hour sessions during which we attempted simply to tell our students of the existence and nature of this book that purports to be a new book of revelation authored by super human and non human personalities. The first introductory session was designed to set the framework for the rest of the course and to explain that we did not intend to proselytize or defend the religious, scientific or philosophic credibility of the 196 Urantia Papers but only to give an account of their content. The next four sessions were devoted in turn to: a) the reality of the religious experience (papers 99 - 103 specifically); b) the cosmology of the Urantia Book (planetary hierarchies, Paradise, Havona, infinity, eternity, space, time, matter, spirit, and the unity of all reality as portrayed in the Urantia Book and as interpreted by the instructors); c) a cursory account of the history of Urantia, indicating the relative time periods dealt with in the Urantia Book; and d) the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. Many people have asked me about the Urantia course, about student reaction to the course, about future plans for, such courses, etc. Well, although the students listened attentively, paradoxically there was not much reaction to the course. There weren't very many questions asked during our sessions and the written comments on the student questionnaires handed out at the end of the course were anticlimactic. The reaction of the campus community was muted. I am somewhat at a loss to explain just why this was true considering the potentially sensational aspects of the book. In the final analysis, perhaps we succeeded too well in playing down any sensationalism. My attitude was 'here is a book that says..."
3. At the present time there are no plans for another Urantia course. However, we have been conducting some study sessions with students who were enrolled in the course and who evidently take the book seriously. Thus there is that good to report. We also managed to sell about 20 books! If there are any other questions in your minds about the course I would be glad to take them up later. Just now I'd like to talk about the Urantia Book itself.
1. With regard to this marvelous book, I would like simply to state that I believe it to be exactly what it purports to be - a communication from super-mortal and non-mortal minds. Almost miraculously, I have found the Urantia Book consistent with and supportive of my best scientific, religious and philosophic intuitions. At the same time those who have studied the book know that this does not mean that the Urantia Book is my religion or my faith, although it has evidently become a part of my creed.
2. I am most fascinated by the Urantia Book's treatment of the relationship between science and religion. In paper 103 (entitled The Reality of the Religious Experience) section 7 (Science and Religion) pages 1137-40., the grand panorama is spelled out: "But as ascending man reaches inward and Paradiseward for the God experience, he will likewise be reaching outward and spaceward for an energy understanding of the material cosmos." (page 1138, paragraph 2) "God is spirit, but Deity is unity, and the unity of Deity not only embraces the spiritual values of the Universal Father and the Eternal Son but is also cognizant of the energy facts of the Universal Controller and the Isle of Paradise, while these two phases of universal reality are perfectly correlated in the mind relationships of the Conjoint Actor and unified on the finite level in the emerging Deity of the Supreme Being. " (same paragraph) "The union of the scientific attitude and the religious insight by the mediation of experiential philosophy is part of man's long Paradise ascension experience. 11 (page 1138, paragraph 3) "From outward, looking within, the universe may appear to be material; from within, looking out, the same universe appears to be wholly spiritual." (page 1138, paragraph 5)
3. Starting with a discussion of this subject, it seems that literally no topic is tangential. Now the next topic on my list today is general communication of the message of the Urantia Book.
1. There are two main aspects of this issue. One is the external dissemination of the Urantia Book to "non-Urantians", so to speak. The other is the internal communication between those who espouse the Urantia Book. Concerning external dissemination, reflection and experience have made it clear to me that a person is either ready for the Urantia Book or not. If he is ready, it is quite easy to interest him in the book; if he is not ready, it is practically impossible to do so. I'm reminded of the thoughtless pagan that Ganid and Jesus met near Rome. Said Jesus: "The man was not hungry for truth... he was not ripe for the harvest of salvation... He must be allowed more time for the trials and difficulties of life to prepare him for the reception of wisdom and higher learning. Or, if we could have him live with us, we might by our own lives show him the Father in heaven, and thus would he become so attracted by our lives as sons of God that he would be constrained to inquire about our Father. " (page 1466)
2. But although there is much spiritual starvation in 1973, there does not seem to be much spiritual hunger. Thus as I see it our fellow earthlings will gradually recognize the Urantia Book as they exercise the faith necessary to possess greater truth, as they become more spiritually hungry; less effective (and perhaps even dangerous) would be missionary attempts by Urantians to get earthlings to espouse the teachings of the Urantia Book. The book is visible to those who have the eyes to see it. It should be made readily available to all interested persons, but it should not be regarded as a religious cure-all. If the living Jesus was not a cure-all to the thoughtless pagan, how much less the dead print of any book. In this view, the Urantia community will gain loyal new members only as more and more people realize the intellectual and spiritual need for the Urantia Book's message. And this process is mostly personal not social; it will take its own sweet time. But the acquisition of new Urantia Book devotees is only half of the issue. There is also the spreading of the teachings of the Urantia Book among the members of the Urantia Community.
3. First of all and after all the Urantia Book is just a book. A physical book must be interpreted by a living person. And the degree of enlightenment produced, although proportional to the amount of fossilized truth contained in the print, is limited by the spiritual and intellectual status of the interpreter of that print. Espousal of the Urantia Book is not equivalent to its understanding. Insight cannot be had without faith and faith cannot be provided by a book. To quote a Melchizedek of Nebadon: "(Religion) consists not in the discovery of new facts or in the finding of a unique experience, but rather in the discovery of new and spiritual meanings in facts already well known to mankind. 11 (page 1105) So individually, Urantians need to learn the deeper meanings of the facts in the Urantia Book. And that will take time and study and practice.
4. Related to this subject is the problem of vocabulary. One hundred people may use the same word but mean a hundred different things. Granted that a diversity of opinion on some matters is inevitable, these should be real differences of opinion not just confusion owing to ambiguous terminology.
5. To help Urantians grasp new meanings and clarify their terminology, some new services seem desirable. First, it would be nice if we had some Urantia newspapers and magazines (dealing with popular topics). It would also be nice if we had some Urantia journals (dealing with more technical topics both religious and scientific). Such internal communications would be useful right now. Second, within the remaining years of this century I would like to see the expansion of the present Urantia Societies into Urantia Study Centers where an on-going living and learning experience could be enjoyed by Urantia Book devotees with the motive of developing experientially non-secular life styles based on the principles and ideals of the Urantia Book. At such centers souls could be won for the spiritual brotherhood in the manner suggested by Jesus --- by their actual living within a Urantia Society and seeing how our Father's sons live together.
6. There are other reasons for such developments. On page 2090) a midwayer says, "What a transcendent service if through this revelation, the Son of Man should be recovered from the tomb of traditional theology and presented as the living Jesus to the Church that bears his name, and to all other religions!" But such an effect can only be fostered if the Urantia community can serve as the unified nucleus of a new and glorified Christian cult and later as the unifier of all individual ideals on Urantia. The Urantia Movement must have a good functional unity before it attempts to bring unity to the divided Christian church. Furthermore, although the various Christian churches do not now consider the Urantia Movement a significant threat to their ideas of religion, as the Urantia Movement grows and when it eventually is taken more seriously, then we can expect a certain amount of questioning, skepticism, criticism or worse. There are many controversial and difficult -to -understand areas in the Urantia Book over which we might become divided unless we have already been self-critical ahead of time. These areas could be openly discussed, tested and resolved through actual life experiences at such Urantia living and learning centers.
7. Finally, the Urantia Movement is in its formative stages; basic ideas and practices are being formed which will serve somewhat as a guide for later years. These basic concepts and practices ought to be grounded and tested in living experience rather than based on a simple reading of the Urantia Book. And to gain such experience we should begin now toward building a true Urantia Society (or a Society of societies) not just isolated study groups living mostly within contemporary secular society.
8. While there may be certain dangers inherent in such internal organization, the alternative risks seem to me much greater. As always the right path lies in a wise balance.
1. Speaking of balance, it seems to me that we early Urantia Book devotees face a special task of maintaining our balance while we live on a world seemingly over-flowing with intimidation, violence, deception, hypocrisy and general injustices. We face problems of humility as we imagine the importance of Urantia in our local universe, the importance of this epochal revelation to Urantia, the possible significance and importance of our individual roles in the Urantia Movement. Subtle types of pride endanger us. We might act just to increase our status rather than out of loving service. Some of us might expect some special reward or presume some special place in the scheme of things. As humans living together, we might succumb to jealousy or the suspicion of jealousy.
2. How harmonious is our Urantia Movement when we all exhibit the attitude of the Apostle James Zebedee. The Urantia Book says, "Of all the twelve, he came the nearest to grasping the real import and significance of Jesus' teaching. He, too, was slow at first to comprehend the Master's meaning, but ere they had finished their training, he had acquired a superior concept of Jesus' message." (Page 1552) "He was modest and undramatic, a daily server, an unpretentious worker seeking no special reward when once he grasped something of the real meaning of the kingdom." (Page 1553) How beautiful is our Urantia Society when we live more faithfully Jesus' admonitions to the twelve at their ordination; "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and be led to glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Page 1572) "...when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matt. 6,3&4)
3. When we love each other as brothers and sisters we partake of the infinite spiritual wealth of our Father; when we love each other as Jesus loved us, our spiritual wealth is immeasurably multiplied. Each act of love increases our total wealth as well as all individual wealth. Thus with God, everyone gains and no one loses.
Robert W. Hunt, Ph.D.
During the Fall Quarter of 1972, on the campus of California State College in Bakersfield, Professor Philip Calabrese and I conducted a one-unit, non graded course entitled "An Introduction to the Urantia Book". The brevity of the time allotment (five two-hour meetings on alternate Monday evenings) and the scope of the undertaking presented incompatible, but challenging, constraints on the project. The twenty-three students registered for credit formed a diverse group both with respect to major fields and extent of familiarity with the Urantia Book, the latter ranging from none to some. Purchase of the book was not required although many did acquire their own copy; three copies were available in the library, two of which were donated by the First Urantia Society of Los Angeles. In addition to the regular students, about a dozen other interested persons attended some or all of the class sessions.
The course developed in a fairly straightforward, generally low-keyed fashion with presentations covering a preview of the primary aspects of the book, conceptions of religion and the religious experience as presented in Papers 99-103 (1 have found this to be an excellent set of papers for the beginning reader), and sketches of the cosmology of the Urantia Book, the history of Urantia, and the life and teachings of Jesus. These were discussed in general outline with some continuity being provided by specific concepts and thematic organization.
Both the planning and implementation of the course involved some frustration and difficulty as well as continued challenge and resulting fulfillment. I feel that the total experience was positive, rewarding, and successful as an introduction to the Urantia Book. Most of the students are continuing, independently, to read and study the book. The entire project was regarded as experimental and could certainly be repeated or expanded although there are no current plans to do so.
Based upon this experience and, more broadly, upon my experience in the area of higher education blended with my study of and experience with the Urantia Book, I wish to extend my commentary to more expansive considerations.
Currently, higher education, at both the immediate post secondary and graduate levels, is not enjoying a particularly enviable reputation or pleasant circumstances. Faced with declining enrollments, reduced financial support, and public attitudes that range from hostile criticism and cynicism to demands for both relevance and accountability, the academic community has many problems to contend with while concurrently struggling with exponential rates of growth of both information and technological impingements on the educational process. In the formulation of responses to the accumulated difficulties, there seems to be a confusion that fails to distinguish between training and educating, between skills and knowledge, between performance and understanding. This entire issue is, of course, extremely complex; and I do not intend, by these brief observations, to oversimplify significant matters. I simply acknowledge them as a preface to suggesting why some of the problems exist and predicting a way in which some of them may, at least in some measure, be resolved.
I would like to go before the entire faculty of my college and request its indulgence while I present some ideas concerning the curricula of all of the various disciplines represented. I would then unfold a glorious plan in which every course would utilize both concepts and insights derived from the Urantia Book. I would suggest that wherever possible values as well as meanings be incorporated into the academic milieu to provide new dimensions in intellectual pursuits at virtually every level. I would issue a challenge to each of my learned colleagues to read, to study, and to analyze the Urantia Papers from the perspective of his or her own expertise, to seek out concepts or ideas, general material or specific subject matter, or anything at all that could be incorporated into a college course in such a manner as to enhance and enrich the course. There would be no necessity, during these studies, to suspend critical appraisal, a meaningful area for Urantia Book scholars to explore both now and in the future. I am certain that many valuable and evolutionarily uplifting realizations will result from careful, constructive, and wise evaluations of the Urantia Papers. And there will come a time when meetings or conferences such as this will be commonplace and widespread rather than unique and esoteric. Readers, students, and teachers will gather to present and discuss scholarly studies generated by the Urantia Book.
But first, and of initial concern in my appeal to my fellow faculty members, the emphasis should be upon an open and positive spirit of inquiry, a search for anything that might be helpful or enlightening to a student or a professor (or both) in a specific college course or collection of courses. If these conditions can be achieved, and I am hopeful that one day they may be, then I have supreme confidence in the results. If the seeds can be sown, the harvest will be abundant. In fact, the yield has the potential of reaching actual levels of reality as yet unimagined in the history of man on this planet.
I shall try to be more specific. First, I assert that virtually any area of academic study and pursuit, as traditionally accepted and defined in modern higher education, has an untapped vein, an unexplored depth, an unrecognized dimension - namely, the values and meanings, the truth, the beauty, and the goodness that impinge upon the material facts of the subject matter content. It is certainly true that the arts, and even the sciences at times, are recognized and taught with aesthetic and emotional, as well as intellectual, regard. But values and higher meanings are most often relegated to something less than the prime and ultimate role of importance, to a lesser or greater extent depending upon the discipline and the personality of the spokesman therefor. And detachment or, at best, a subtle aloofness, is certainly more the rule than the exception among academicians regardless of their field or personal persuasions. I am suggesting that this is the very antithesis of what really ought to be, that every concept, every idea, every fact of any study should be examined not only for logical or scientific or aesthetic acceptability but also with respect to its value in the cosmic scheme, to its spiritual importance, and to its role in the enhancement of evolutionary growth and achieving the will of God. I think that virtually any academic subject at any level of sophistication, elementary or advanced, can be expanded so as to be embedded in a dynamic, growing, cosmic reality that retains all current development while adding a new perspective that is undeniably worthwhile.
I am not asserting that the Urantia Book should replace the text books or materials of any course, only that it offers a most enhancing supplement. In some areas, such as philosophy, religious studies, history, sociology, and anthropology, the Urantia Book offers specific content as well as an unsurpassed frame of reference. For many other traditional disciplines, the Urantia Book presents broad conceptual directions with startling and succinct perceptiveness. Such clarity and perspective are invaluable to the motivation of and focus for any particular area of study.
For physics, astronomy, and mathematics, Paper 12 (pages 133-135) includes sections on space, motion, and time, concepts that occur at frequent intervals throughout the book and culminate in Jesus' Carthage discourse on time and space, Paper 130 (pages 1438-1440). Paper 15 (pages 169-172) discusses nebulae and the origin of space bodies while Paper 41, "Physical Aspects of the Local Universe" (pages 455-466) is packed with topics such as sun density, solar radiation, and solar energy, each of interest to the chemist, the physicist, and the astronomer. For more advanced scientific considerations, Paper 42, "Energy - Mind and Matter" (pages 467-484) is replete with discussions of energy and matter, including the illusive, as yet undiscovered ultimation and its relation to electrons and atoms. Physics, astronomy, earth science, and geography are all involved in Paper 57, "The Origin of Urantia" (pages 651-663).
Biology and the related life sciences are well-served by a variety of considerations of evolution ranging from "The Evolutionary Ideal" in Paper 32 (pages 360-362) to Paper 65, "The Overcontrol of Evolution" (pages 730-740) and including, in Part III, an incredible sequence of papers with applications to history, anthropology, and geology as well. These are Paper 58, "Life Establishment On Urantia" (pages 664-671); Paper 59, "The Marine Life Era On Urantia" (pages 672-684); Paper 60, "Urantia During the Early Land-Life Era" (pages 685-692); Paper 61, "The Mammalian Era On Urantia" (pages 693-702); Paper 62, "The Dawn Races of Early Man" (pages 703-710); and Paper 63, "The First Human Family" (pages 711-717). In the first of these, on page 665, is the fascinating statement: "The Urantia midwayers have assembled over fifty thousand facts of physics and chemistry they deem to be incompatible with the laws of accidental chance, and which they contend unmistakably demonstrate the presence of intelligent purpose in the material creation. And all of this takes no account of their catalogue of more than one hundred thousand findings outside the domain of physics and chemistry which they maintain prove the presence of mind in the planning, creation, and maintenance of the material cosmos. " What a beautiful, natural, and exciting project for a college science class - to formulate such a list of its own!
The possibilities for academic philosophy and religious studies are too great for enumeration. In addition to the many compelling and carefully articulated themes that occur throughout the book,, there are numerous outstanding specific Presentations such as "Morontia Mota" (pages 556-557), Paper 56 on "Universal Unity" (pages 637-648), and Papers 160 and 161 (pages 1772-1787) dealing with Rodan of Alexandria. Historical perspectives are discussed and expanded in the series of papers from Paper 85 to Paper 98 (pages 944-1085). These deal with origins and evolution of worship and the life and teachings of Machiventa Melchizedek. Sociology and religion are interwoven in Papers 99-103 (pages 1086-1142) which deal with religion in society and in human experience, with the foundations of religious faith, and with the reality of the religious experience. In Part IV, special note might be made of Paper 131, "The World's Religions" (pages 1442-1454), Papers 132 and 133 (pages 1455-1482) on Jesus' sojourn at and return from Rome as well as the last paper, Paper 196, "The Faith of Jesus" (pages 2087-2097).
In the area of behavioral studies, I will first refer to an excellent paper by Vern Grimsley, entitled "The Urantia Book and Principles of Practical Psychology. Sociology, as well as psychology, can certainly derive much of benefit from Papers 82-84 on "The Evolution of Marriage" (pages 913-921), "The Marriage Institution" (pages 922-930), and "Marriage and Family Life" (pages 931-943), respectively. Anthropologists, in addition to veins of riches throughout the Urantia Book, would do well to consider Paper 52, "Planetary Mortal Epochs" (pages 589-600); Paper 64, "The Evolutionary Races of Color" (pages 718-729); Paper 68, "The Dawn of Civilization" (pages 763-771); Paper 69, "Primitive Human Institutions" (pages 777-782); and Paper 81, "Development of Modern Civilization" (pages 900-912). As with each of the brief descriptions that I am offering, these references are intended as guides only and are by no means comprehensive; in fact, the richness of the possibilities would be difficult to exhaust.
Any study of the "fine arts" can be heightened by the notions of beauty that are explicated in the Urantia Book as well as by Paper 44, "'The Celestial Artisans" (pages 497-508). Law and government are provided with frameworks of great precision and clarity by Paper 70, "The Evolution of Human Government" (pages 783-799), wherein are contained discussions of human rights, justice, laws, courts, and civil authority, as well as by Paper 71, "Development of the State" (pages 800-807), and sections of Paper 134 (pages 1487-1491) dealing with Jesus' statements on political sovereignty, law, and liberty as applied to the twentieth century. The vital area of teacher education is of direct concern in many parts of the book; any list of references must include, from Paper 50, "The Planetary Headquarters and Schools" (pages 575-576) and, from Paper 71, "Education" (page 806). The latter reference, concise but powerful (a characteristic of the exposition in the Urantia Book), includes the following two statements about "education" and about "teachers". "Education has too long been localistic, militaristic, ego exalting, and success seeking; it must eventually become world-wide, idealistic, self-realizing, and cosmic grasping. " (page 806) "Teachers must be free beings, real leaders, to the end that philosophy, the search for wisdom, may become the chief educational pursuit." (page 806)
Paper 71, on page 805, includes two brief sections for economics, "The Evolution of Competition" and "The Profit Motive". Paper 72, "Government On A Neighboring Planet" (pages 808-820), certainly one of the most unique presentations of the Urantia Book, includes sections rich in material for study and consideration in courses in education, business, government, and sociology. Finally, throughout the entire content of the Urantia Book is woven an interdisciplinary unification that can renovate and rejuvenate the entire educational process; this, together with the injection of value to its proper place, may ultimately be the greatest contribution of all to academic-oriented learning and understanding.
For a final reference along these lines, consider that section of Paper 16 dealing with "The Cosmic Mind" (pages 191-192). "The cosmic mind unfailingly responds (recognizes response) on three levels of universe reality. ... These levels of reality are: 1. Causation - the reality domain of the physical senses, the scientific realms of logical uniformity, the differentiation of the factual and the nonfactual, reflective conclusions based on cosmic response. This is the mathematical form of the cosmic discrimination. 2. Duty - the reality domain of morals in the philosophic realm, the arena of reason, the recognition of relative right and wrong. This is the judicial form of the cosmic discrimination, 3. Worship - the spiritual domain of the reality of religious experience, the personal realization of divine fellowship, the recognition of spirit values, the assurance of eternal survival, the ascent from the status of servants of God to the joy and liberty of the sons of God. This is the highest insight of the cosmic mind, the reverential and worshipful form of the cosmic discrimination. These scientific, moral, and spiritual insights, these cosmic responses, are innate in the cosmic mind, which endows all will creatures." ... "It is the purpose of education to develop and sharpen these innate endowments of the human mind;..."(page 192).
I began by saying that I would like to present these ideas to any faculty colleagues. I would do this with the hope that a new and significant development would result and with the conviction that any institution that initiates and maintains such a program will ultimately be recognized for both the courage and the vision so demonstrated. Were I to carry out this idea in hopes of launching a plan that seems so promising and, eventually, inevitable, what would the reception be? An attempt to answer offers some interesting possibilities for speculation. However, the general consensus of how such a suggestion would be received would probably offer scant encouragement together with advice to take care lest I sacrifice my intellectual respectability. There is, of course, a matter of much greater importance than the reaction from my faculty audience; and that is, would this be a wise course of action? Are my fellow faculty members, or is any similar group, ready to hear such a suggestion much less act upon it? Would this action be counter to the many reminders in the Urantia Book concerning the counter productivity of haste or impatience? These are questions that must be considered carefully, wisely, and sincerely, both now and as they continue to arise in analogous situations and very likely with increasing frequency. For me and for now, the conclusion seems clear.
I will not go before my faculty friends with such a proposal. In fact, there is probably no other group to present it to at this time besides the one here assembled or one of similar composition. I have done so, then, because I think you will understand what I am saying and because I perceive that, for the record, such a seed needs planting. Some day it may spring forth, blossom, and bear good fruit that will feed the mind, sustain the soul, and yield the spirit.