The Urantia Book Fellowship

Psychology as a Variety of Religious Experience

by Marta Elders, Ph.D.
Author's Note: While this talk was spoken extempore, it has been modified here to adjust to the written word.

I am going to try an exercise here in the shifting of consciousness. First I greeted you and you greeted me back in the initial hello. And that is the way we frequently acknowledge one another, without too much thought beyond the fact that this is another person in front of me. Now this (demonstrating the hands placed together in front of the chest with the head briefly bowed in acknowledgment) is an indication of acknowledging the God within, a greeting frequently used in some gatherings. This behavior is symbolically quite different from the first hello. What I am looking at here, and what this exercise briefly demonstrates, is that where our consciousness is, where our awareness is, has a powerful impact on what we actually see and acknowledge in front of us. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the quote in The Urantia Book that it is our thoughts, not our feelings, that lead us Godward. The way we hold our thinking is where we truly live. The way we hold our thinking is how we can be with God.

I was asked to speak about psychology and what is happening in the field. But as I began my preparation I decided to focus on the psychological insights that are offered in The Urantia Book. It is noteworthy, however, that there is an increasing spiritual awareness in certain branches of psychology, particularly transpersonal psychology. And for those of you who are interested in pursuing thinkers who have addressed religion, spirituality, spiritual development, and consciousness from a psychological viewpoint, I would suggest reading Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli, Ken Wilbur, Michael Washburn, and George Kuhlewind.

But, I chose to talk about psychology from The Urantia Book viewpoint. And I have struggled for months trying to decide what I was going to say here today, how I was going to say it, and, in fact, I am still working on it. I took the word psychology literally; that is--the knowing of the soul, the psyche logos. And I believe that the "knowing of the soul" is where certain branches of psychology are heading. So what insights are available from The Urantia Book in this endeavor? What is the soul? How does one know one's soul? What is identity? What is self? What is material self? What is ego? What is material mind? How does mind function? How do these constructs and realities come into existence, interact, develop, and grow? In an attempt toward further understanding and to stimulate our soul awareness I am going to briefly describe our development as I understand it to be presented in The Urantia Book. As I do this, I invite each of you to bring your own lives present, to bring them present in your consciousness, to bring your sense of self into your awareness, who you think you are; and then see how the words and descriptions work in your life. Do the words fit with your experience? What do they mean in your life? Interestingly, words, in and of themselves, are meaningless. They are but symbols. It is only our experience that fills out the words and gives some meaning to us. So hopefully as you bring your own experience to the words there may be enrichment, movement, change, and whatever was there before may be a little different after.

Each of us began as an embryo. As we formed, a brain formed. Our material mind, our use of the adjutant minds is dependent on our brain capacity. The brain will be the hardware and the seven adjutant mind-spirits, which have been bestowed by the local universe Mother Spirit, will be the software. Whenever the brain begins to function, I believe the lower adjutants have become operative. The first five adjutants--intuition, understanding, courage, knowledge, and counsel--are considered animal, subhuman; the top two, worship and wisdom, are considered moral or human. After approximately nine months of gestation, a baby is born. It is my belief that sometime after birth but before attaining a year, personality is bestowed. Once personality has been bestowed on this living energy system, on our vehicle, there is the potential for self-consciousness. We can become aware that we are. I can know that I am. You can know that you are. And as this self-conscious being we form an identity. This identity that we construct, and are most likely living out of, can be referred to as a material self-identity and is usually how we describe who we are. For example, a child might identify himself or herself as a good girl, a fast runner, superman, daddy's helper, a bad eater, etc. This material identity is very much determined and affected by our family, the community that we live in, the culture that we grow up in, what we see on TV, etc. This social and cultural context forms the frame in which we decide who we are. In our exploration, developmentally, we now have been bestowed with personality, have begun to construct a material self-identity, and are functioning mostly on the first five adjutant mind spirits.

In the process of becoming, of growing, we use the sixth adjutant, the spirit of worship, and at some subsequent time the seventh, the spirit of wisdom. With the use of the seventh adjutant, we make a moral decision. You and I choose something that is greater than the self; we make a decision that is truly moral. At that moment a Thought Adjuster is bestowed, a soul is initiated, and psychic circle growth begins. Essentially at this point we have a child developing along a material track that is establishing a material self-identity, a personhood, while simultaneously the soul, a quasi-spiritual reality, is germinating. Our soul is in embryonic form. This soul will be built and added to every time a moral decision is made, every time a supreme decision is made, every time truth is touched, every time beauty is touched, every time goodness is touched. There is this incredible fabric being woven inside our beings, that at some time will be our identity--this incredibly beautiful, exquisite creation that most of the time we don't even perceive. So, here we are in our lives making decisions in the material world and creating our souls.

To me psychic circle growth, which appears to be a stage process, is true human development, is true maturation on this planet. As this occurs the soul grows, there is increasing Adjuster attunement, there is mind attainment, and increasing personality status. Developmental theorists have perceived aspects of this growth and have contributed much to the psychological literature. Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan have done work with moral development. James Fowler has pursued faith development. Erik Erikson has done work with ego development. I think each of these individuals has seen, from a particular perspective, the manifestations of this developmental process.

Again here we are in our lives, living in and from how we see ourselves, how we identify ourselves, mostly living in our ego identities, our material selves, as mother, father, teacher, student, driver, shopper, etc. When we answer the question "Who am I?" or "What am I doing?" we will be pointed toward where we live. We live in our thinking. When we greeted one another before we noticed where we live. That is the consciousness that we usually live in. In reality there seems to be two selves from which we can live--one the material self and the other the soul. Given that we usually live from the material self, how might we switch to living from our soul selves? How do we make that move? How do I make that move? How do you? Certainly we can talk about prayer, and we can talk about worship, and we can talk about being with God. But clearly, it is more than talking about--it is really living there.

One of the struggles that I had in preparing for this talk was that when I started I believed that the ego self was not wanted, not desired. I believed that I needed to transcend it, to let go of it, to not be it. That's not quite where I am today. The sense that I have now is that this self in its fullness is what needs to be committed to God. The full self in its completeness, in its richness, in its maturity, in its full psychic circle growth, in its full mind mastery, is what we need to give our Father so that he can live through us, so that his love can flow through us in this incredible way. And yet, it remains seemingly difficult to shift from this material self to this soul identity. We are alerted to the perimeter of conflict in The Urantia Book. There we are warned about how hard the material mind will hold on to us, how we cling to our material self. Especially when we have done well. Especially when our lives are good. Especially when we have been successful. Why? Because we like it, we like how we feel about ourselves, we like how our life is working. We are happy. We know how to get things done. We know how to make our lives work. Why should we shift? In contrast, if we are in pain, if our lives are not working, if our lives are falling apart, then we are much more likely to reach out and get help. But when it is good, it's hard to do that.

So what might it be like to enter that fringe of conflict and move into our souls? To me that is the place where we close our eyes and we open our hearts. That's the place where we take that leap of faith. I think that this place is oftentimes best described by our poets, by our artists, by our musicians. They have reached in, or taken that jump, and then tried to bring their experience back to a material description. There is a line in T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets," where he describes this shift into the soul as: "where the darkness becomes the light, and the stillness, the dance." That's exquisite. The stillness, the dance, the shift, the darkness, the light. I think it is darkness that we go into initially, that we literally do close our eyes and open our eyes of faith. Jesus commented, "you see not with the eye of faith, and you hear not with the understanding of the spirit," which says to me we need to see with the eye of faith, that's where we need to see from. We need to hear with the understanding of the spirit. When we are in a situation, can we take our consciousness, and can we look to see with the eye of faith? Can we listen to hear with the understanding of the spirit? This injunction works both in terms of our being with another person and our being open to truth when it is presented to us. And yet we hesitate. Why?

In The Urantia Book there is a statement that there are, among others, two attitudes or states that inhibit growth, one being ignorance and the other being prejudice. When I think of those attitudes in terms of my own thinking, they seem to be most active when I have a closed mind, a prejudicial mind, when I have prejudged a situation, when I think I know the way things are, when I have the answers, when my frame is closed and I am not looking to know more. These attitudes will keep me far away from that fringe of conflict, confident in my own limited thinking, and not hungry for growth. The emotions of anxiety, fear, envy, and jealousy will help maintain this position. And the wall will keep the inside from getting out and the outside from getting in. And I will remain isolated in my self, defended against the very truth I need. One time Ganid inquired of Jesus why he had not interacted with a certain man, and Jesus replied: "Ganid, the man was not hungry for truth. He was not dissatisfied with himself. He was not ready to ask for help, and the eyes of his mind were not open to receive light for the soul."

Take a moment to again bring your own life up, your own presentation of yourself to yourself, and let it just be there. What are your inhibitors? What are your stumbling blocks? Let yourself see what needs to be opened. Let yourself see what your fears are; see what is getting in your way, what you need to do to move into your soul, to commit to your Father.

I mentioned that one of the insights I had while preparing was this commitment of the selfhood from its own fullness. This was beautifully articulated when Jesus went up into the hills following his baptism and the two minds were made one. And I quote: "The results of this momentous season of meditation demonstrated conclusively that the divine mind has triumphantly and spiritually dominated the human intellect. The mind of man has become the mind of God from this time on, and [this is the part that caught my attention] though the selfhood of the mind of man is ever present [the selfhood, the being that had been developed, the man], always does the spiritualized human mind say, `not my will, but your be done.'" It is as if our selfhood is almost embraced by our larger divinity. Another quote also expresses this: "The marks of human response to the religious impulse embrace the qualities of nobility and grandeur. 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. [And here's where I'd like to highlight.] The consciousness of self worth has become augmented by the stimulus of the quest for the highest universe objectives, supreme goals. The self has surrendered to the intriguing drive of an all-encompassing motivation which imposes self discipline, lessens emotion conflict, and makes mortal life truly worth living."

One wonders what else would promote this shift into a more divine awareness. One possibility from the Jesus Papers: "To become acquainted with one's brothers and sisters, to know their problems, and to learn to love them is the supreme experience of living." That is supremacy. Our souls are part of the Supreme. Our interactions with one another can be a Supreme experience, the experience of Supremacy. And then there is this suggestion, "Each race must become familiar with the thought of all races. Each nation must know the feelings of all nations. Ignorance breeds suspicion, and suspicion is incompatible with the essential attitude of sympathy and love."

For a moment, suppose we were able to shift our seat of identity from material self to the soul and live from that place, at least attempt to live from that place some of the time. Most likely we would be quite mature and would have realized much of the psychic circle growth. As we made decisions we would probably check them out with God first, using that as a grounding point, a centering place. What else? What else do we need to allow to happen? What is needed? The sense that I have is that it's all in place, the only thing we sometimes do is get in the way--get in our own way. In reality all we have to do is fully commit to this, all we have to do is wholeheartedly choose to do it. There is a statement that "the great problem of religious living consists in the task of unifying the soul powers of the personality by the dominance of love." So, it's love. Where do we get love? Where does it go? What do we do with it?

"All true love is from God, and man receives the divine affection as he himself bestows this love upon his fellows." That's where it comes from, that's where it goes. It's the flow. It's the flow of the universe. It's the energy of the universe. "Love is dynamic, it can never be captured. It is alive, free, thrilling, and always moving. Man can never take the love of the Father and imprison it within his heart." Doesn't work. "The Father's love can become real to mortal man only by passing through that man's personality as he in turn bestows this love upon his fellows. The great circuit of love is from the Father, through the sons, to brothers, and hence to the Supreme. The love of the Father appears in the mortal personality by the ministry of the indwelling Adjuster. Such a God-knowing son reveals this love to his universe brethren and this fraternal affection is the essence of the love of the Supreme." It is supremacy. It is the coming into existence of the Supreme. It is the living of Supremacy. "Man can discover the Father in his heart, but he will have to search for the Supreme in the hearts of all other men. And when all creatures perfectly reveal the love of the Supreme, then will he become a universe actuality to all creatures."

And here we are, with our lives in front of us, left with the question, the great challenge: "Will you decide to personalize the experiencible value meanings of the cosmos into your own evolving selfhood?" And that, to me, is psychology, the knowing of the soul, the creating of the soul, as a variety of religious experience.

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