Regarding The Urantia Book
What is this? My personal introduction.
The Urantia Book originated in the early- to mid-20th Century in Chicago. It was originally propounded in the English language, and published in 1955 by the Urantia Foundation of Chicago. The work has since been translated into several languages, and is also available on PC-compatible diskettes, audiotape, and through the Internet.
A personal statement
When all is said and done, it's words arrayed on paper. (Or on audio tape, or in computer bytes, or....) What effect these words have, what you personally might glean in meaning and value from the words, is not something I would dare to predict. I can tell you what the book says, I can tell you what I think it means, I can tell you what value it has for me; each of those stages is increasingly personal, however, and thus increasingly open to subjective interpretation. Understand that the brief description here is simply to answer the "what is it" question for the absolute or relative stranger to the work; any meanings or values I ascribe to it are not intended to impose those meanings and values upon you. Discover a copy, recognize what meaning it may have for you, interpret those meanings for whatever value they may hold for you, and choose as you will in light of that.
[The particular phrase "discover, recognize, interpret, and choose" is one of many "Urantian" phrases which pepper my speech and thought patterns:
The human mind does not create real values; human experience does not yield universe insight. Concerning insight, the recognition of moral values and the discernment of spiritual meanings, all that the human mind can do is to discover, recognize, interpret, and choose.
I have been studying this book for over half of my nearly forty-four years, and it has had a significant impact on my life and thinking. Therefore, I cannot pretend to be objective about it. I have found it personally valuable, indeed practically invaluable. For all my enthusiasm for it, some others are more emphatic than I in their proclamations for its values; some others find it worthwhile, but do not take it to heart as strongly as I do; some find nothing of value in it. Therefore it cannot be said to be the perfect thing for everyone. I contend, however, that any seeker of truth should give The Urantia Book a careful perusal, for even those who reject its presumptions to authority can benefit from its presentation as, if nothing else, worthy mythology.
As printed by the Urantia Foundation for its first forty years of existence, The Urantia Book comprises over two thousand pages of sometimes fascinating, sometimes difficult prose. The word "Urantia" is the name given our planet. The book's voice is one of superhuman authority, and it is internally credited to supermortal beings, angels and other orders of beings from on high and not so high, which orders are themselves defined in the book. No human authorship is claimed. Certain people were involved in whatever processes brought the book to print, but they are all now deceased, and while there are many conjectures as to the process and people involved in its origins, essentially everyone who ever knew for sure is now dead.
The book professes to be from beings who know Creation, the universe, our world and its peoples better than our human knowledge. It claims to be a revelation. What "revelation" means, and the limitations of revelation, are all described in the book.
So where did it come from?
It came from Chicago in the 1930s. (That sounds like a grade-B 1950s science fiction movie title, doesn't it?) That's all I care to say about its origins, because its means of transmission is essentially irrelevant to the message, in my personal opinion. I believe any work is tantamount to "myth." What you read in the daily news, what you believe about your politicians or heroes, what you think is the course of the world, these are your personal myths. Some people cherish and are personally uplifted by myths I consider unhistorical, even absurd and relatively without merit for me. This book presents a mythology: a cosmology and a history and to a certain degree a theology, for the reader's consideration. Whether what it has to say is "true," I cannot say, but I have always said this: If there is a capital-R Reality, God's reality, a reality which is true and known by the all-knowing, then if what The Urantia Book has to say is not true then Reality is going to have to be at least this good.
Unlike, say, certain adherants of the absolute validity of certain scriptures, The Urantia Book does not claim to be the absolute, complete, and final say on anything. The authors recognize and acknowledge that any words set down on paper are stuck immediately in time and space, and become gradually anachronistic to a greater or lesser degree. Some of what it has to say, like the truths in the most ancient of our religious writings, are "eternal" truths. In other aspects, the book acknowledges that it has an inevitable fallibility. This flexibility does not detract from its value for me; I find it refreshingly modern and honest in this regard. Those seeking some kind of final and absolute authority may be less satisfied, and that is right, because a book, words on paper, cannot ever be a final authority. It can, however, act as a ladder to lead you to the Supreme Authority.
And what's it about?
Briefly, some themes in The Urantia Book (U.B.):
- The universe is God-centered. There is an eternal universe, to the center of which they apply our term "Paradise." ("The Isle of Paradise.") This timeless, spaceless, eternal creation is perfect and its inhabitants eternally in synchrony with the Creator. Time and Space lie "outside" this perfect universe. Beyond Time and Space are the Time- and Space-transcending universes, but I wouldn't go into that here if I even understood it well enough to write about. In the totality of reality, these three are one grand creation, all God-centered, and all ultimately subject to God's perfect will.
- Within Time and Space, the Creator Sons (also called "Michael Sons") and their associated Creative Daughters, beings of direct descent from the Paradise Dieties, create evolutionary reflections of the eternal universe. Our particular Michael Son's universe is called "Nebadon." By various descending levels, these Sons and Daughters of God, and their created sons and daughters, rule and administer the whole of time and space.
- As a part of these local universe creations, evolutionary worlds are developed and the life evolved thereon is destined to reach a point of potentially God-knowing material creatures--more or less "humans" like us. Our world is not a "normal" evolutionary world but an "experimental" sphere, and its course has had many strange twists on the path to our high destiny which the "average" world does not suffer. These are too complex to go into here, but they go a long way to explaining the depth of misery and suffering which has occurred here, especially the damage done by superhuman administrators of our immediate region of space (our "local system") and of our planet.
- The Michael Sons do not rule their creations simply by divine right, but also earn experience by incarnating and living and experiencing in the forms of certain of their own creatures. Our Michael Son served six different times in this way, as various orders of beings, angels and other orders which are described in the book. The seventh and final qualifying incarnation is as a mortal of time and space, born as a material infant on an evolutionary sphere. Of some ten million projected inhabited worlds of our local universe, our world hosted this incarnate Creator Son, who (you might have guessed by now) was Jesus of Nazareth. While Christian theology has mostly held that Jesus was the Son of the Eternal Trinity, the U.B. acknowledges that Trinity, but removes Jesus one place from the actual Eternal Son, to the status of the Creator Son, of immediate descent from the Universal Father and Eternal Son of the Paradise Trinity. (His Creative Daughter co-ruler of Nebadon is directly derived from the third person of the Trinity, the Infinite Spirit.)
The fundamental theology of the U.B. will be familiar to both Christians and other religions, but especially to those who have read the so-called Gospels and appreciated the Jesus reported therein.
- God is our immediate personal spiritual Parent, and all of us are thus siblings in one cosmic family. Although we are raised "from dust" and to dust our mortal shells will return, the transient vehicle of the material frame serves to permit the embryonic mortal personality to develop qualities of eternal survival value, a "soul." This soul, upon release from the material form, is given a new and slightly more spiritualized form in the "next life," and thus begins the long journey upward and inward (personally and literally) to Paradise and an eternal destiny. In this life, in the next, in eternity, God is always our personal Parent, and we are all always siblings.
- The Golden Rule, difficult to understand and even more difficult to live in this life, is the fundamental rule of the universe. The U.B. acknowledges the more ancient and negative form of the Golden Rule as, in a general sense, "don't do to others what you wouldn't have done to you." This rule being satisfied by simply doing nothing is not enough, however. We are urged to live the more difficult-to-discern path of actually doing for others that which we would have done for us. The U.B. acknowledges the difficulties of interpreting this morally and ethically, but demands that we take the active course of doing for others rather than the simpler passive course of not doing. In the end, Jesus instructs that one love one's fellow, not just as oneself, but as God loves us. This is as far above the "do for others" rule as the "do for others" rule is above the "don't do" interpretation of the rule. The potential for erroneously interpreting the Golden Rule increases at each level, and spiritual insight, discernment, wisdom, is increasingly required. Nevertheless, "Love one another as I have loved you" is the law by which any truth-seeker must eventually come to live.
This is enough of a grounding for you to better appreciate the structure of the U.B. as I will describe it below. The whole of the U.B. consists of a Foreword and 196 "Papers," authored by various superhuman beings, some credited by name and order, others only by their order (e.g. "An Archangel of Nebadon"). The Papers are grouped in four major divisions, each successive section greater in size, descending from Paradise to our world to the life of Jesus, thus each is respectively more refined in scope:
The Central and Superuniverses
The Local Universe
The History of Urantia
The Life and Teachings of Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man
Okay, I'm tired of reading about it, how do I read it?
Look in your local library. If they don't have a copy, have them ask for one from the Urantia Foundation of Chicago, and one will be supplied free. A bookstore can order a copy from the Urantia Foundation. You can order a copy directly from the Foundation. Call them; they're in the book. Due to recent legal disputes, the Foundation's copyright of the text is in question, currently suspended in fact, although this is under appeal as of this writing, so others have printed or are preparing to print all or part of the book on their own. It is not my purpose here to enter into the debate on the lawfulness of any party's right to promulgate the Urantia Papers in whatever form they choose. Elsewhere, I (used to and will again) provide links to some Web sources of the U.B. itself and secondary resources. That I provide these links should not be considered an endorsement of any of the parties. I believe the Foundation has a reliable and essentially original printing of the Papers, but many changes--mostly punctuation and spelling but a few word and phrase changes--have been made in the course of the various printings of the U.B., and students of the book debate (as religion students will) the propriety of these changes. The Foundation is still the most extensive source of the book, with hardback and softback and software copies in various languages. What's most important is to get a book and read it for yourself. Discover it, recognize what you get out of it, interpret it in light of your own experiences. Only then can you choose with a fully-informed experience whether it is the revelation of truth to our world it claims to be.
Whatever you do, whether you read it or not, may you come to know and love God in your daily life, and treat your fellow human beings as if they were your most beloved and dearest siblings.
The transcendent goal of the children of time is to find the eternal God, to comprehend the divine nature, to recognize the Universal Father. God-knowing creatures have only one supreme ambition, just one consuming desire, and that is to become, as they are in their spheres, like him as he is in his Paradise perfection of personality and in his universal sphere of righteous supremacy. From the Universal Father who inhabits eternity there has gone forth the supreme mandate, "Be you perfect, even as I am pefect." In love and mercy the messengers of Paradise have carried this divine exhortation down through the ages and out through the universes, even to such lowly animal-origin creatures as the human races of Urantia.
—Paper 1, The Universal Father
—Don Tyler, 22 March 1996