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The Urantia Book

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The Urantia Book  
Urantia book cover pb.jpg
Cover of the June 2008 paperback ed.
Author Undetermined
Publisher Urantia Foundation, Uversa Press, others
Publication date October 1955
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-911560-02-5 (Urantia Foundation), ISBN 0-9651972-3-9 (Uversa Press)
OCLC Number 49687706
Uversa Press Indexed Edition  
Author Original Multiple Authors

The Urantia Book (sometimes called the Urantia Papers or The Fifth Epochal Revelation) is a spiritual and philosophical book that discusses God, Jesus, science, cosmology, religion, history, and destiny.[1] It originated in Chicago, Illinois, USA, sometime between 1924 and 1955. The circumstances surrounding its publication are matters of speculation.[2] The authors introduced the word "Urantia" as the name of the planet Earth and state their intent is to "present enlarged concepts and advanced truth" in an "endeavor to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception." Among other topics, the book expounds on the origin and meaning of life, humankind's place in the universe, the relationship between God and humankind, and the life of Jesus.

The Urantia Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit group, first published The Urantia Book in 1955 in English. The organization has translated it into fourteen other languages, with new translations in process.[3]


[edit] Overview

The Urantia Book claims to be a new revelation of truth to the peoples of our planet, written as if directly presented by numerous celestial beings appointed to the task of providing an "epochal" spiritual revelation to humankind. It is more than 2,000 pages long and consists of an introductory statement followed by 196 "papers," claimed to be written by a number of different superhuman personalities, divided into four parts:

The text begins its narration at what is considered the highest level of creation and then sequentially in the subsequent three parts focuses its discussion on our Local Universe, planet Earth (Urantia), and on the life and teachings of a single personality, Jesus of Nazareth. This thematic structure is consistent with one of the book's process teachings: "The human mind would ordinarily crave to approach the cosmic philosophy portrayed in these revelations by proceeding from the simple and the finite to the complex and the infinite, from human origins to divine destinies. But that path does not lead to spiritual wisdom. Such a procedure is the easiest path to a certain form of genetic knowledge, but at best it can only reveal man's origin; it reveals little or nothing about his divine destiny."

The Foreword is presented as a guide to the terminology developed in greater detail in Part I, and provides an explanation of the meanings which should be used for words that are "in designation of Deity and certain associated concepts of the things, meanings, and values of universal reality."

Part I consists of 31 papers that address the origin of creation beginning with the "First Source and Center of all things and beings", the eternal and infinite "Universal Father," his Trinity associates, the Eternal Son and Infinite Spirit, and his Paradise dwelling place at the center of infinite reality.

Part II is composed of 25 papers pertaining to the origin, administration and myriad personalities of "local universes," especially the Local Universe which is home to our planet. It presents narratives on the inhabitants of local universes and their work as it is coordinated with a scheme of spiritual ascension and progression of different orders of beings, including human beings. Subjects covered include: "The Life Carriers, The Celestial Artisans, The Seven Mansion Worlds, Planetary Mortal Epochs, and The Lucifer Rebellion."

Part III includes 48 papers that address a broad history of the Earth, presenting an expanded explanation of the origin, purpose, evolution, and destiny of our world and its inhabitants. An additional 15 papers cover various topics such as "Religion in Human Experience, Seraphic Planetary Government, The Gift of Revelation, God the Supreme, Deity and Reality", the concept of the God within, the Thought Adjuster, "The Adjuster and the Soul, Personality Survival", and "The Bestowals of Christ Michael".

Part IV is presented in 77 papers and narrates "The Life and Teachings of Jesus". Included are papers about his childhood, teenage years, family life, his work as a carpenter and fisherman before the commencement of his public ministry, an exhaustive recital of his public ministry and the events that led to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It continues with papers about appearances after he rose, Pentecost, and finally, "The Faith of Jesus". Articulated using the story of Jesus' life, Part IV illustrates many of the concepts presented in the first three parts.

The authors claim that new epochal revelations of truth are given to the world’s inhabitants on a regular basis to provide new potentials for spiritual growth as human minds evolve: “Truth is always a revelation…” The Urantia Book is identified as the most recent of five revelations of epochal significance given to our world. In order to connect the new teachings to past revelations, the authors assert that they chose to utilize human understanding and expression when that understanding was adequate to reveal truth—-over one thousand such instances of human expression were supposedly used in this manner in The Urantia Book. This assertion by the authors has led to the claimed identification of a number of texts by human thinkers in the first half of the 20th century whose expressed comprehension of previously-revealed truth has been found to parallel some of the teachings in The Urantia Book[citation needed].

[edit] Authorship

William S. Sadler
Lena K. Sadler

The exact circumstances of the origin of The Urantia Book are unknown. The book and its publishers do not name a human author: instead it is written as if directly presented by numerous celestial beings appointed to the task of providing an "epochal" spiritual revelation to humankind. For each paper, either a name, or an order of celestial being, or a group of beings is credited as its author.[4][5][6]

As early as 1911, William S. Sadler and his wife Lena Sadler, physicians in Chicago and well known in the community, were approached by a neighbor who was concerned because she would occasionally find her husband in a deep sleep and breathing abnormally.[2][4] She reported that she was unable to wake him at these times. The Sadlers came to observe the episodes, and over time, the individual produced verbal communications that claimed to be from "student visitor" spiritual beings.[2] This changed in early 1925 with a "voluminous handwritten document", which from then on became the regular method of purported communication.[2] The Sadlers were both respected physicians, and William Sadler was a debunker of paranormal claims, who is portrayed as not believing in the supernatural. In 1929, he published a book called The Mind at Mischief, in which he explained the fraudulent methods of mediums and how self-deception leads to psychic claims. He wrote in an appendix that there were two cases that he had not explained to his satisfaction.[7]

The other exception has to do with a rather peculiar case of psychic phenomena, one which I find myself unable to classify, and which I would like very much to narrate more fully; I cannot do so here, however, because of a promise which I feel under obligation to keep sacredly. In other words, I have promised not to publish this case during the lifetime of the individual. I hope sometime to secure a modification of that promise and be able to report this case more fully because of its interesting features. I was brought in contact with it, in the summer of 1911, and I have had it under my observation more or less ever since, having been present at probably 250 of the night sessions, many of which have been attended by a stenographer who made voluminous notes.

A thorough study of this case has convinced me that it is not one of ordinary trance. While the sleep seems to be quite of a natural order, it is very profound, and so far we have never been able to awaken the subject when in this state; but the body is never rigid, and the heart action is never modified, though respiration is sometimes markedly interfered with. This man is utterly unconscious, wholly oblivious to what takes place, and unless told about it subsequently, never knows that he has been used as a sort of clearing house for the coming and going of alleged extra-planetary personalities. In fact, he is more or less indifferent to the whole proceeding, and shows a surprising lack of interest in these affairs as they occur from time to time.

Eighteen years of study and careful investigation have failed to reveal the psychic origin of these messages. I find myself at the present time just where I was when I started. Psychoanalysis, hypnotism, intensive comparison, fail to show that the written or spoken messages of this individual have origin in his own mind. Much of the material secured through this subject is quite contrary to his habits of thought, to the way in which he has been taught, and to his entire philosophy. In fact, of much that we have secured, we have failed to find anything of its nature in existence. Its philosophic content is quite new, and we are unable to find where very much of it has ever found human expression.

In 1924, a group of Sadler's friends, former patients, and colleagues began meeting for Sunday intellectual discussions, but became interested in the strange communications when Sadler mentioned the case and read samples at their request. Shortly afterwards, a communication reportedly was received that this group would be allowed to devise questions and that answers would be given by celestial beings through the "contact personality".

Sadler presented this development to the group, and they generated hundreds of questions without full seriousness, but their claim is that it resulted in the appearance of answers in the form of fully written papers. They became more impressed with the quality of the answers and continued to ask questions, until all papers now collected together as The Urantia Book were obtained. The group was known as the Forum. A smaller group of five individuals called the Contact Commission, including the Sadlers, was responsible for gathering the questions from the Forum, acting as the custodians of the handwritten manuscripts that were presented as answers, and arranging for proofreading and typing of the material.[4]

The Sadlers and others involved, now all deceased, claimed[8] that the papers of the book were physically materialized from 1925 until 1935 in a way that was not understood even by them, with the first three parts being completed in 1934 and the fourth in 1935. The last Forum gathering was in 1942. Also documented are methods of reception that Sadler denied as the way the papers were received.[5]

After all of the written material was received in 1935, an additional period of time supposedly took place where requests for clarifications resulted in revisions. Sadler and his son William (Bill) Sadler, Jr. at one point wrote a draft introduction and were told that they could not add their introduction because "A city can not be lit by a candle." [9][10] The Foreword was then "received." Bill Sadler is noted to have composed the table of contents that is published with the book.[11]

The communications purportedly continued for another two decades while members of the Forum studied the book in depth, and according to Sadler and others, permission to publish it was given to them in 1955. The Urantia Foundation was formed in 1950 as a tax-exempt educational society in Illinois,[12] and through privately raised funds, the book was published under international copyright on October 12, 1955.

Only the members of the Contact Commission witnessed the activities of the sleeping subject, and only they knew his identity.[2] The individual is claimed to have been kept anonymous in order to prevent undesirable future veneration or reverence for him. Martin Gardner states that an explanation concerning the origin of the book more plausible than celestial beings is that the Contact Commission, particularly William Sadler, was responsible. Gardner's conclusion is that a man named Wilfred Kellogg was the sleeping subject and authored the work from his subconscious mind, with William Sadler subsequently editing and authoring parts.[4] A statistical analysis using the Mosteller and Wallace methods of stylometry indicates at least nine authors were involved, and by comparatively analyzing the book against Sadler's The Mind at Mischief, does not indicate authorship or extensive editing by Sadler, without ruling out the possibility of limited edits.[2]

[edit] Copyright status

In 2001, a jury in Oklahoma City found that the Urantia Foundation's 1983 renewal of the book's copyright was invalid.[13][14] This decision was upheld by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,[15][13] and the English version of the book is considered to have entered the public domain in the U.S. as of 1983.[2] In 2006, the international copyright on the English text expired.[16] A print edition containing a topical index and an audio DVD has been published by The Urantia Book Fellowship as Uversa Press since the 2001 decision.

[edit] Teachings

[edit] Nature of God

In The Urantia Book, God is the creator and upholder of all reality—an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, and eternal spirit personality; a loving Father, with whom all may have a personal relationship.

God is inherently kind, naturally compassionate, and everlastingly merciful. And never is it necessary that any influence be brought to bear upon the Father to call forth his loving-kindness. The creature's need is wholly sufficient to insure the full flow of the Father's tender mercies and his saving grace. Since God knows all about his children, it is easy for him to forgive. The better man understands his neighbor, the easier it will be to forgive him, even to love him.[17]

God is said to be a unapproachable to so many orders of beings only because he "dwells in a light which no material creature can approach." The immensity and grandeur of the divine personality is beyond the grasp of the unperfected mind of evolutionary mortals [18]

God, according to the book, is one Deity who functions on a range of different levels of reality, both personal and impersonal. God is taught to exist in a Trinity of three perfectly individualized persons who are co-equal: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. These persons are referred to by additional titles in the book, primarily as the "Universal Father", "Eternal Son", and "Infinite Spirit". While stating that the concept of one God in three persons is difficult to fully understand, the book says that the idea "in no manner violates the truth of the divine unity. The three personalities of Paradise Deity are, in all universe reality reactions and in all creature relations, as one".

The Father, Son, and Spirit are considered in existence from the eternal past to the eternal future. In addition, three persons of Deity are described who are "experiential", or incomplete and in the process of actualizing: God the Supreme, God the Ultimate, and God the Absolute. Of these three, God the Supreme, or "the Supreme Being", is given the most explanation, as the person of Deity evolving in time and space to unify finite reality and the infinite. The persons of God the Ultimate and God the Absolute are considered to be remote from the possibility of comprehension and are covered on a limited basis.

Many types of celestial beings are enumerated in the book, and one of particular note is a joint "offspring" of the Universal Father and Eternal Son called a "Creator Son". A divine Creator Son is considered the full representation of the Universal Father and Eternal Son that is possible to people. Jesus of Nazareth is identified as a Creator Son who incarnated on Earth and whose life and teachings are portrayed as the fullest revelation of the personality and attitude of God ever given to humanity.

On following Jesus the book states:

To "follow Jesus" means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the Master's life of unselfish service for man. One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.[19]

[edit] God and the individual

God is described as the Father of each individual, and through the direct gift of a fragment of his eternal spirit is said to be able to guide the individual toward an increased understanding of him. This fragment is called a "Thought Adjuster", "Mystery Monitor," "inner voice," "divine spark," and "pilot light". The concept is in certain ways comparable to the Hindu atman.

The Adjuster is the mark of divinity, the presence of God. The "image of God" does not refer to physical likeness nor to the circumscribed limitations of material creature endowment but rather to the gift of the spirit presence of the Universal Father in the supernal bestowal of the Thought Adjusters upon the humble creatures of the universes.[20]

Each person receives one such fragment at the time of his or her first independent moral decision, on average around the age of five years and ten months. The Adjuster then serves noncoercively as a divine partner for the rest of life, and to the extent that a person consents with their free will to want to find God, it leads the person toward more mature, spiritualized thinking. Through the practice of learning how to follow the inner leadings of the Adjuster—choose "God's will"—the individual progresses to greater God consciousness and spiritual growth.

A person's Thought Adjuster is described as distinct from either the soul or the conscience. In The Urantia Book's teachings, the degree to which a human mind chooses to accept its Adjuster's guidance becomes the degree to which a person's soul "grows" and becomes a reality that can then survive death. The soul is in essence an embryonic spiritual development, one parental factor being the divine Adjuster and the other being the human will.

The book many times links the biblical New Testament teachings of becoming like a little child in attitude of trust and sincerity as being the stance each person should have toward God. It says the attitude of open-minded teachability facilitates spiritual growth in liaison with the work of the Thought Adjuster and invariably leads a person to love and serve other people. It also says, "But you yourself are mostly unconscious of this inner ministry. You are quite incapable of distinguishing the product of your own material intellect from that of the conjoint activities of your soul and the Adjuster". The book is strongly fideistic and teaches that neither science nor logic will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of God, arguing that faith is necessary to become conscious of God's presence in human experience, the Thought Adjuster.

From Paper 101, "The Real Nature of Religion":

Religious experience, being essentially spiritual, can never be fully understood by the material mind; hence the function of theology, the psychology of religion. The essential doctrine of the human realization of God creates a paradox in finite comprehension. It is well-nigh impossible for human logic and finite reason to harmonize the concept of divine immanence, God within and a part of every individual, with the idea of God's transcendence, the divine domination of the universe of universes. These two essential concepts of Deity must be unified in the faith-grasp of the concept of the transcendence of a personal God and in the realization of the indwelling presence of a fragment of that God in order to justify intelligent worship and validate the hope of personality survival. The difficulties and paradoxes of religion are inherent in the fact that the realities of religion are utterly beyond the mortal capacity for intellectual comprehension.

Persistently embracing sin is the same as rejecting the leadings of the Adjuster, the same as rejecting the will of God. Constant selfishness and sinful choosing lead eventually to iniquity and full identification with unrighteousness, and since unrighteousness is unreal, it results in the eventual annihilation of the individual's identity. Personalities like this become "as if they never were". The book says that "in the last analysis, such sin-identified individuals have destroyed themselves by becoming wholly unreal through their embrace of iniquity". The concepts of Hell and reincarnation are not taught.

From Paper 5, "God's Relation to the Individual":

The great God makes direct contact with mortal man and gives a part of his infinite and eternal and incomprehensible self to live and dwell within him. God has embarked upon the eternal adventure with man. If you yield to the leadings of the spiritual forces in you and around you, you cannot fail to attain the high destiny established by a loving God as the universe goal of his ascendant creatures from the evolutionary worlds of space.

The book says that a person ultimately is destined to fuse with his or her divine fragment and become one inseparable entity with it, if the person chooses to accept the Adjuster's leadings and become self-identified with it. The act of fusion is the moment when a human personality has successfully and unalterably won eternal life, described as typically taking place in the afterlife, but also a possibility during earthly life. The result during human life is a "fusion flash", with the material body consumed in a fiery light and the soul "translated" to the afterlife. The Hebrew prophet Elijah being taken to heaven without death in "chariots of fire" is said to be a rare example in recorded history of a person who attained fusion. Once fused with his or her fragment of God, a person continues as an ascending citizen in the universe and travels through numerous worlds on a long, adventurous pilgrimage of growth and learning that eventually leads to God and Paradise. Mortals who reach this stage are called "finaliters." The book goes on to discuss the potential destinies of these "glorified mortals".

The Urantia Book places much emphasis on the idea that all individuals have the same opportunity to come to know God, and it says nothing can hinder a human being's spiritual progression if he or she is sincerely motivated to be spirit led. People are to actively work to understand each other and to seek to live in love and peace, being of help to one another. The practice of the "religion of Jesus" is to love God the Father with a person's whole being, thereby learning to love each person the way Jesus loves people; that is, recognizing others as brothers and sisters and being of unselfish service to one another.

[edit] Cosmology

The Urantia Book presents a cosmological perspective on the universe and humankind's relation to it, but hedges its bets by saying that it will be in need of revision as new discoveries emerge in science, and that its presentations are not meant to be a substitute for science, because "human wisdom must evolve". It teaches that the universe is vastly older than current scientific theories state, and that the universe is the product of intelligent and purposeful organization.[4][21] Unlike the currently (and then) accepted scientifc cosmology, that of the Urantia book is non-isotropic, in that it has a center, which is ruled out by the generally accepted Cosmological principle.

The book uses the term "universe" to denote a number of different scales of organization, possibly because the book was written at a time when galaxies outside of the Milky Way were still called "island universes". In the book, a "superuniverse" is roughly the size of a galaxy in reality. A "local universe" is a sub-unit comprising approximately 10 million inhabited worlds when fully developed and accounts for 0.001% of the size of a "superuniverse". The book uses the term "master universe" to refer to what modern usage would call the universe — all existing matter and space taken as a whole. When the term "universe" is used alone, the type usually can be inferred from the context.

The visualization of the cosmos presented from the center outward is

The book describes alternative explanations to then-current hypotheses in science regarding the universe's origin, and suggests sources of error in then-current astronomical observations. For example, the concept of "space respiration"—that all of space itself undergoes "two-billion-year expansion-contraction cycles"— is claimed to be part of the explanation for astronomic redshift. The Urantia Book says we are currently almost half way through an expansion cycle.

[edit] History and future of the world

Urantia is considered one inhabited sphere among trillions of others in the universe. The book's extensive teachings about the history of the world include its physical development about 4.5 billions years ago, the gradual changes in conditions that allowed life to develop, and the long ages of organic evolution that started with microscopic marine life and led to plant and animal life in the oceans, later on land. The emergence of humans is presented as having occurred about a million years ago from a branch of superior primates originating from a lemur ancestor.

The Urantia Book says "this story is graphically told within the fossil pages of the vast 'stone book' of world record ... the pages of this gigantic biogeologic record unfailingly tell the truth if you but acquire skill in their interpretation". Unlike current scientific views, evolution is said to be orderly and controlled. Primordial life is taught to have been intelligently planned, implanted, and monitored by "Life Carriers", instead of arising spontaneously. The book says that "mortal man is not an evolutionary accident", and that the purpose of evolution on a planet such as Urantia is to produce creatures of "will dignity" that can develop spiritual natures and survive material existence, going on to have eternal spiritual careers.

The Urantia Book teaches not only biological evolution, but that human society and spiritual understandings evolve by slow progression, subject both to periods of rapid improvement and the possibility of retrogression. Progress is said to follow a divine plan that includes periodic gifts of revelation and ministry by heavenly teachers, which eventually will lead to an ideal world status of "light and life" in the far distant future.

Though there is the ideal and divine plan, it is said to be fostered and administered by various orders of celestial beings who are not always perfect. Through mistakes or deliberate rebellion, the plan can be wrecked, requiring long spans of time to recoup lost progress. Urantia is said to be a markedly "dark and confused" planet that is "greatly retarded in all phases of intellectual progress and spiritual attainment" compared to more typical inhabited worlds, due to an unusually severe history of rebellion and default by its spiritual supervisors.

[edit] Comparisons

[edit] Christianity

Christianity is the religion most similar to The Urantia Book's teachings; but there are significant differences. In particular, those who assert the Bible is the inerrant word of God cannot accept The Urantia Book, because it denies some fundamental Christian doctrines.

Jesus is held in high regard by The Urantia Book. More than one third of the content of the book (Part IV), is devoted to a narrative of his life and teachings, said to be a restatement based on a gathering of "superior concepts" from over two thousand individuals who have lived since his times, as well as "superhuman" and "superplanetary sources of information".

Just as in the Bible, Jesus [1] was the Son of God incarnate, born to Mary; both human and divine; lived a perfect life; the bridge between God and man as "the way, the truth, and the life"; he performed miracles, taught, was crucified, rose from the dead and will return to our world again some day. God is the creator of all reality; omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, and eternal; a loving personality; a single deity that exists in a Trinity of three persons.

In common with some versions of Christianity, those having faith in God survive death and Angels and divine personalities exist and are sent to guard and minister to people throughout their lives.

Some differences with Christianity include:[4][21][22]

[edit] Buddhism

The Urantia Book considers Buddhism one of the "great international, interracial faiths" and says it "has shown an adaptability to the mores of many peoples that has been equaled only by Christianity."

Gautama Siddhartha is called a real prophet whose doctrines were "revolutionary and amazing" for their time. He is credited with being one of the seven outstanding teachers in human history in the matter of combining contemporaneous systems of ethical and religious teachings, a group that includes Moses, Laozi, and the Apostle Paul.

The teaching that a divine nature—the Buddha-nature—resides in all people, and that through their own endeavors people can attain a realization of this inner divinity, is cited as one of the clearest presentations of the concept of the Thought Adjuster to be found in non-revelatory religion.

The book says Gautama's experience was tragic, however, in that he was an "orphan prophet" whose philosophy failed early on to envision the reality of a spiritual God.

Despite this, the book states: "Buddhism is a living, growing religion today because it succeeds in conserving many of the highest moral values of its adherents. It promotes calmness and self-control, augments serenity and happiness, and does much to prevent sorrow and mourning. Those who believe this philosophy live better lives than many who do not."

[edit] Miscellaneous world religions

Facets of other world religions are incorporated in the book, including from Islam, Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Shinto, and Confucianism. For example, paper 131, "The World's Religions", discusses in more depth those aspects of different religions that have commonalities with what the book claims is the "religion of Jesus". There are also numerous other references to the world's major religions throughout Part III, "The History of Urantia", beginning with Paper 86, "Early Evolution of Religion". The perspective of The Urantia Book is that all religions should be studied to take "the best" from each.

[edit] Consideration as literature

The Urantia Book has been enjoyed by some as a form of science fiction, historical fiction, or fantasy. The Urantia Book is noted for its high level of internal consistency and an advanced writing style. Skeptic Martin Gardner, in a book otherwise highly critical of The Urantia Book, writes that it is "highly imaginative" and that the "cosmology outrivals in fantasy the cosmology of any science-fiction work known to me".[4]

Parts I, II, and III are chiefly written in expository language. The papers are informational, matter-of-fact, and instructional. Part IV of the book is written as a biography of Jesus' life, and some feel it is a rich narrative with well-developed characters, high attention to detail, woven sub-plots, and realistic dialogue. Considered as literature, Part IV is favorably compared to other retellings of Jesus' life, such as The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago and Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock. Martin Gardner considers Part IV to be an especially "well-written, impressive work", and says, "Either it is accurate in its history, coming directly from higher beings in position to know, or it is a work of fertile imagination by someone who knew the New Testament by heart and who was also steeped in knowledge of the times when Jesus lived."

[edit] Critical views

[edit] Criticisms of claims as a revelation

In Paper 92, "The Later Evolution of Religion", the authors make a reference to the papers as the fifth revelation of "epochal significance" to humankind, the fourth epochal revelation having been the life of Jesus.

The claim of revelation in The Urantia Book has been criticized for various reasons. Skeptics such as Martin Gardner say it is a product of human efforts rather than a revelation because some of its science is flawed. Because the book does not support certain fundamental doctrines of Christianity,[citation needed] while at the same time presenting an account of parts of Jesus' life absent in the Bible, those with a Christian viewpoint have argued it cannot be genuine.[22] Some[who?] have thought it to be gnostic, but The Urantia Book is not associated with Gnosticism.[citation needed]

Other critics have felt that at over 2,000 pages, nearly twice the length of the King James Bible, it is too long, complex, and bureaucratic.[12][21][23]

[edit] Claims and Criticism of science

Some believers maintain that the book has prophetically anticipated scientific advances.[24] They believe more of its science, if not all of it, will be proven correct in the future. However, interpretation of this claim is complicated by the delay between first use as "teachings" in 1935 and first publication in 1955. Science discovered during the two intervening decades can be perceived as prophetic by believers, while skeptics think such facts were added prior to publication. For instance, the catalytic role that carbon plays in the sun's nuclear reactions is described in the book. Hans Bethe's announcement of the discovery was in 1938, well before publication. Whether it was present in the original "teachings" cannot be verified.[4] Others, for example Meredith Sprunger, a liberal believer writes that "research has revealed that virtually all of the scientific material found in The Urantia Book was the accepted scientific knowledge of the period in which the book was written, was held by some scientists of that time, or was about to be discovered or recognized." He argues against its literal infallibility and that fundamentalism over the book is "just as untenable as Biblical fundamentalism".[4] The authors themselves seem to have no great faith in the enduring truth of the science they describe and disclaim the cosmology from being "inspired", writing

within a few short years many of our statements regarding the physical sciences will stand in need of revision in consequence of additional scientific developments and new discoveries. These new developments we even now foresee, but we are forbidden to include such humanly undiscovered facts in the revelatory records. Let it be made clear that revelations are not necessarily inspired. The cosmology of these revelations is not inspired.[25]

Skeptics like Martin Gardner see the claim by the authors that no unknown scientific discoveries could be imparted is seen as a ruse to allow mistakes to be dismissed later. That presentation of post-1955 scientific knowledge is avoided is taken to be evidence it was written by humans and not by celestial beings with superior knowledge.

Examples of claims of science, and critical replies include:[4]

Controversial statements about human races can be found in the book. Supporters state that criticism has arisen mainly due to reading passages out of context. Gardner believes that William S. Sadler, who wrote some eugenicist works, had a hand in editing or writing the book, and that this is how the ideas were included. Possibly controversial statements about the sexes can also be found. While the book supports social and spiritual equality between men and women, it states that they will always have distinctive "spheres" in society due to their biological differences.

The only apparent anticipation of science the book has made, in Gardner's opinion, is that it says the magnetic sense that homing pigeons possess is "not wholly wanting as a conscious possession by mankind". In 1980, a British zoologist, Robin Baker, published evidence that humans have a limited magnetic sense.

Mark McMenamin, a professor of geology, quotes a section of the book describing a billion-year-old supercontinent that subsequently split apart, forming ocean basins where early marine life developed. He says, "This amazing passage, written in the 1930s, anticipates scientific results that did not actually appear in the scientific literature until many decades later." McMenamin also states, "Of course I am being selective here in my choice of quotations, and there are reams of scientifically untenable material in The Urantia Book."[26]

The Urantia Book states that in the Tarim Basin (present-day Xinjiang, China) thousands of years existed cultural centers of Caucasoid physical type of peoples, with red and blond hair. The Tarim mummies have been found in that region since the twenties of last century but only in the eighties their Caucasoid origin has been discovered and later finally proved by DNA testing. Paper 79, "Andite Expansion in the Orient"

The book states that native Americans "were discovered by the white races of Europe" at "the end of the first millennium of the Christian era." This statement was not proven until the year 1960, when the remains of Norse village in Canada, from around AD 1000, were discovered. L'Anse aux Meadows Paper 79, "Andite Expansion in the Orient"

The existence of extrasolar planets, as described in The Urantia Book in the middle of last century, was first confirmed in 1992.

[edit] Re-use of other sources

The Urantia Book states in its Foreword that more than one thousand "human concepts representing the highest and most advanced planetary knowledge of spiritual values and universe meanings" were selected in preparing the papers. The authors say that they were required to "give preference to the highest existing human concepts pertaining to the subjects to be presented" and would "resort to pure revelation only when the concept of presentation has had no adequate previous expression by the human mind."

In recent years, students of the papers have found that the free use of other sources appears to be true.[4][21] None of the material allegedly used from other sources are directly cited or referenced within the book, which could therefore count as "plagiarism" by modern standards of scholarship.

In 1992, a reader of The Urantia Book, Matthew Block, self-published a paper that showed nineteen possible examples of The Urantia Book utilizing material published earlier;[27] although Block describes his finding as a synthesis of then-available information, in line with the authors' intent, and not direct plagiarism (see below). All of the source authors identified in Block's paper were published in English between 1905 and 1943 by U.S. publishers and are typically scholarly or academic works that contain concepts and wording similar to what is found in The Urantia Book. Block has since claimed to have discovered over 125 source books and articles, written by over 90 authors, which were incorporated into the papers.[4]

The use of outside source materials was studied separately by Gardner and Gooch, and they concluded that the book did use many of the sources noted by Block. Gardner found that at least one of the source book authors was quoted in earlier works by Sadler, and most of the books purportedly would have been available to Sadler or Forum members in Chicago prior to 1955.

For instance, Gardner and Block note that Paper 85 appears to have been taken from the first eight chapters of Origin and Evolution of Religion by E. Washburn Hopkins, published by Yale University Press in 1923. Each section of the paper corresponds to a chapter in the book, with several passages possibly used as direct material. Likewise, much of The Urantia Book material relating to the evolution of mankind appears to have been directly taken from Henry Fairfield Osborn, Man Rises to Parnassus: Critical Epochs in the Prehistory of Man published by Princeton University Press in 1928.

In one example cited by Block, the original author discusses the periodicity of the chemical elements and concludes that the harmony in the construction of the atom suggests some unspecified plan of organization. In conclusion from this "plagiarism", the authors of The Urantia Book assert that this harmony is evidence of the intelligent design of the universe. W. F. G. Swann writes on page 64 of The Architecture of the Universe (italics indicate edits as compared to The Urantia Book, bolding indicates deletions):

Starting from any one of them [i.e., chemical elements], and noting some property such as the melting point, for example, the property would change as we went along the row, but as we continued it would gradually come back to the condition very similar to that which we started ... The eighth element was in many respects like the first, the ninth like the second, the tenth like the third, and so on. Such a slate of affairs point[s] not only to a varied internal structure, but also to a certain harmony in that variation suggestive of some organized plan in building the atom.

Contrast with The Urantia Book's version:

Starting from any one element, after noting some one property, such a quality will exchange for six consecutive elements, but on reaching the eighth, it tends to reappear, that is, the eighth chemically active element resembles the first, the ninth the second, and so on. Such a fact of the physical world unmistakably points to the sevenfold constitution of ancestral energy and is indicative of the fundamental reality of the sevenfold diversity of the creations of time and space.

Block and many believers do not see the use of human source materials as plagiarism. Block writes:

One probable reason that the human sources were left undisguised was to enable students to discern, through comparative analysis, how this coordination of planetary knowledge was actually effected. As mentioned above, the initial analyses have already proved tremendously illuminating in this regard. Another reason was to keep us aware of the book’s anchorage in a specific time and place. While a very large part of the book is of timeless value and perennial applicability, some of its discussions directly address and respond to the world situation of the early 20th century. Thus, every generation will have to determine the relevance and applicability of certain of the book’s teachings to its own situation.

Emerging from all these discoveries is the gratifying realization that the Urantia Book is exactly what its authors claim it to be.

[edit] Adherents

There is no way to gauge how many adherents there may be as there is no central organization to census. Informal study groups "tend to sprout, ripen, then vanish or splinter" and have not been counted reliably.[21] Readers sometimes join study groups after reading on their own for years or decades, others join them soon after developing an interest in the book, while "for most, worship remains as individual as the act of reading."[21] Disagreements over the legal ownership of the book, its interpretation, and the reception of new revelations have led to some splintering, though these disagreements appear to have been settled to the satisfaction of most adherents.[28] The movement generally incorporates a nonsectarian view, contending that individuals with different religious backgrounds can receive the book's teachings as an enrichment rather than as a contradiction of their faiths.[29]

The book has been in print since 1955, but as compared to other religious or holy books that have a recent origin and revelatory claims, such as the Book of Mormon, popularity of The Urantia Book has not grown as fast. The small movement inspired by The Urantia Book has not developed clergy or institutions such as churches, reading rooms, or temples, and has no membership by which a census of the number of followers can be taken.[21][28] As of 2006, the Urantia Foundation had one office in Chicago and five people on staff.[16]

Sarah Lewis notes that, "The Urantia Revelation is not securing legitimacy through historically known and accepted means to any great degree, nor is it even using common language that would increase the likelihood of understanding and therefore acceptance. It introduces new concepts and a new language, and this does not make acceptance any easier." She assesses that the movement is uncontroversial compared to other ones, "lacking the zealous proselytizing found within many other groups", and that it is therefore likely to remain small and unaffected by opposing views.[2]

Urantia Foundation advocated a "slow growth" policy in the past and had not significantly marketed the book. Sales by Urantia Foundation went from 7,000 in 1990 to 24,700 in 1997, and steadily increased to nearly 38,000 in 2000, an "upturn that seems to represent a genuine trend rather than just some spike on a sales chart",[21] however by 2006 the foundation reported worldwide annual sales of 13,380 copies.[16] Approximately half of the books distributed by Urantia Foundation are in languages other than English, particularly Spanish and Russian.[16] Since the book was determined to be in the public domain in 2001, other organizations, such as The Urantia Book Fellowship under the publishing name Uversa Press, have also published the book. They have sold over 15,000 copies since 2002.[citation needed] They estimate that more than half a million free audio files have been downloaded from various Urantia websites in the last few years.[citation needed]

The International Urantia Association had twenty-six reader associations worldwide as of 2002, and the Urantia Book Fellowship (formerly the Urantia Brotherhood, founded in 1955 with Urantia Foundation as the original social fraternal organization of believers) claimed roughly twelve hundred official members, with the highest concentrations in the West of the United States and the Sun Belt, especially California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas.[21] It appears an increasing number of people are forming study groups, participating in Internet discussion groups, and hosting or visiting websites about it.[21] Reader conferences take place around the world.[30]

[edit] Symbols

Paradise Trinity

One symbol described in The Urantia Book consists of three concentric azure circles on a white background. The circles are said to have symbolized several trinity associations in the history of humankind. The authors of The Urantia Book indicate its revealed meaning as being "the infinity, eternity, and universality of the Paradise Trinity of divine maintenance and direction."

Urantia logo

Urantia Foundation, the original publisher, placed the concentric circles on the cover of The Urantia Book and has a United States trademark. The circles are used to indicate other organizations affiliated with the foundation.

The Urantia Association International, one of the main readership organizations in the movement, has been licensed by Urantia Foundation to use the three azure concentric circles on a white background.

Urantia Book Fellowship logo

Some other groups use the symbol in various altered forms. The Urantia Book Fellowship, an independent reader organization established in 1955, uses a similar symbol in blue instead of azure.

[edit] Popular culture

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Urantia Foundation (1955). The Urantia Book. Urantia Foundation. ISBN 0-911560-02-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Lewis, James R. and Hammer, Olav (2007). The Invention of Sacred Tradition. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86479-8
  3. ^ From the 2006 Urantia Foundation annual report (PDF): "[The Italian translation] is the ninth translation to be printed, joining French, Finnish, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Korean, Lithuanian, and German. The Rumanian and Portuguese translations are available on CD-ROM while undergoing final revision."
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gardner, Martin (1995). Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-955-0
  5. ^ a b "Notes For A History of The Urantia Movement"
  6. ^ "How The Urantia Book Came Into Existence" by William S. Sadler, Jr., February 18, 1962.
  7. ^ Appendix to The Mind at Mischief
  8. ^ Affidavit of Dr. Meredith Sprunger on October 24, 1998 regarding the origin of The Urantia Book
  9. ^
  10. ^ Alternatively: "A candle cannot light the way to the sun."
  11. ^ Ernest P. Moyer (February 16, 2000). "22". The Birth of a Divine Revelation : The Origin of the Urantia Papers. Moyer Pub. p. 312. ISBN 9780967826400. 
  12. ^ a b Mather, George A. and Nichols, Larry A. (1993). Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-53100-4
  13. ^ a b Thomas F. Cotter (March 2003). "Gutenberg's Legacy: Copyright, Censorship, and Religious Pluralism". California Law Review 91 (2): 323–392. 
  14. ^ Michael Foundation, Inc. v. Urantia Foundation v. Harry McMullan, III US District Court decision by jury that Urantia Foundation does not hold the copyright to The Urantia Book
  15. ^ Michael Foundation, Inc. v. Urantia Foundation v. Harry McMullan, III US Court of Appeals affirms the jury decision that Urantia Foundation does not hold the copyright to The Urantia Book
  16. ^ a b c d 2006 Urantia Foundation annual report (PDF)
  17. ^ Paper 2, "The Nature of God"
  18. ^ Paper 1, "The Universal Father"
  19. ^ Paper 196, "The Faith of Jesus"
  20. ^ Paper 108, "Mission and Ministry of Thought Adjusters"
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gooch, Brad (2002). Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-44709-1
  22. ^ a b House, Dr. H. Wayne (2000). Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-38551-2
  23. ^ "Clergy Evaluate The Urantia Book – I" by Meredith Sprunger, January 1986.
  24. ^ UB the News
  25. ^ Paper 101, "The Real Nature of Religion"
  26. ^ McMenamin, Mark A. S. The Garden of Ediacara: Discovering the Earliest Complex Life Columbia. University Press. New Ed edition (October 15, 2000) ISBN 0-231-10559-2
  27. ^ "Some Human Sources of The Urantia Book" by Matthew Block, originally published in 1992. Describes suspected parallels Block found between The Urantia Book and possible human sources of material.
  28. ^ a b Partridge, Christopher (2004). New Religions: A Guide (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-522042-0
  29. ^ Melton, J. Gordon. 1990. New Age Encyclopedia (First Edition). Gale Research Inc.
  30. ^ Urantia Book related Calendar of Events
  31. ^ Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire ISBN 978-0-316-16069-8
  32. ^ Theoquest | Vision Quest

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