Urantia

From Academic Kids

Urantia is the name sometimes given to the spiritual movement whose principal text is The Urantia Book. According to The Urantia Book itself, Urantia is simply another name for the planet Earth. The book, a self-purported revelation to the planet, was first published in 1955, reportedly authored by celestial beings in collaboration with a physician named William S. Sadler, living in the vicinity of Chicago, USA. A handful of volunteers at that time, known as the Contact Commission, gathered together under the leadership of this physician to aid in the reception of The Urantia Book. The names of all humans involved in the project were intentionally withheld to prevent their unintended exaltation. Their possible identities are discussed in a matter of recent court record (http://www.urantia.org/newsinfo/SJM030101.pdf) (p.9), but are as yet uncertain.

The book itself is divided into 196 papers across four major parts, and each paper is written as if presented or "sponsored" by a celestial being. The book was first published in English and has since been translated into a number of other languages. In 2001, the Urantia Foundation lost a court decision concerning the book's U.S. copyright, and the text of the original English version is in the public domain. Full electronic copies are available on the Internet.

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's massive opera cycle Licht is based on this book. The American band Deadsy has an image based on Urantia, and mentions Urantia in several songs. The album Monolith, by the American supergroup Kansas, was largely influenced by Urantia, reflecting an interest in the movement by bandmember Kerry Livgren before his conversion to Christianity.

Contents

Overview

The book describes an intricate, structured universe that has a scale similar to what is described by modern science. The book simultaneously espouses the concept of evolution proceeding over billions of years and central Christian concepts of an eternal, trinitized God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), angels, and an afterlife with Paradise as the destination for those who have faith in God. The book embraces the Platonic concept that the material cosmos is a shadow of larger, more important spiritual realities. The book contains voluminous descriptions of the near and far reaches of this universe, especially as it pertains to the human and divine roles within it.

Tenets

The primary tenet of The Urantia Book is that all normal-minded individuals are provided with a fragment of God, which tries to lead each individual toward a greater understanding of God. The book most commonly refers to such a fragment as a Thought Adjuster, and also variously terms it as a "Mystery Monitor", an inner voice, and a "pilot light." The book links the term to the Judeo-Christian concepts that individuals are "created in God's image", that each person is a temple of God, and that there is a "true light which lights every man who comes into the world." The concept is in ways comparable to the Hindu atman and the ancient Egyptian ka. From philosophy, the concept is similar to what Socrates' referred to as his "daimon." The book warns that most often what individuals would take to be the voice of their Thought Adjuster is the psychological products of their own subconscious. The voice of the Adjuster, if actually heard, would literally be the voice of God according to the book.

A person's Thought Adjuster is described as distinct from the soul. The book lists five constitutive aspects to humans: the physical body, the mind, the personality, the Thought Adjuster, and the soul. The physical body is described as a product of evolution and as wholly material. Humans, from the cosmic perspective, are taken to be little more than animals, largely dominated by their hereditary drives, emotions, and inclinations toward self-interest. The mind is described as arising from the electro-chemical mechanism of the brain, but also as having the capacity for free will, and as being indwelt by the Adjuster, which is constantly attempting to lead each individual toward more spiritualized thinking. In the Urantia Book's teachings, the degree to which a human mind chooses to accept the leadings of its Adjuster becomes the degree to which a soul "grows" as an "embryonic" reality that can then survive death. Personality is described as a somewhat mysterious attribute that is distinctive for each individual and is retained in the afterlife.

According to the book's doctrine, persistently embracing sin and rejecting the leadings of the Adjuster is analogous to choosing not to accept the will of God, leading to the eventual annihilation of the individual's identity at death and the absorption of their personality into the oversoul of creation. The book many times links the biblical New Testament teachings of becoming like a little child in attitude of trust toward God as the ideal stance of a person toward the "inner voice" of the Adjuster. It emphasizes the need for all people to be "born of the spirit."

The book describes that a person is ultimately destined to fuse with his or her divine fragment and become one inseparable entity with it, if the person has chosen to accept the Adjuster's leadings and become self-identified with it. The act of fusion is described as the moment when a human has successfully and unalterably won eternal life, typically taking place in the afterlife, but also a possibility during earthly life. The result during earthly life is a spontaneous immolation of the material body as the soul is "translated" to the hereafter (e.g. Elijah being taken to heaven without death in "chariots of fire"). Once merged with his or her fragment of God, a person continues as an ascending citizen in the universe, traveling through numerous worlds on a long, adventurous pilgrimage of growth and learning that leads eventually to Paradise. There is not a concept of Hell or earthly reincarnation in The Urantia Book.

Comparison to Christianity

The book somewhat erroneously has been associated with the New Age movement, likely because its origin is purported to be through channeling or materialization. The book's doctrine is largely consistent with the teachings of Christianity, but there exist significant differences between The Urantia Book's history (http://www.ubook.org/cgi-bin/mfs/29/home/urantia/webdocs/upapers/ubpaper120.html?13#mfs) and the Christian history of the life of Jesus.

As with Christianity, Jesus is of central importance to The Urantia Book. More than one third of the page count in the book is devoted to a retelling of his life. The divinity of Jesus is fully embraced by the book, as is his human nature. The following are attributed to him:

  • He was a Son of God incarnate and "the light of the world"
  • He lived a perfect and sinless life
  • He was crucified and rose from the dead
  • He performed many of the miracles described in the Bible, including the resurrection of Lazarus, the turning of water into wine, the feeding of the five thousand, and numerous healings of the blind, diseased, and infirm.
  • He sent a Spirit of Truth after he "ascended into heaven"
  • He will return again someday

The primary differences with orthodox Christianity include:

  • The Urantia Book states that Jesus' crucifixion was not an atonement for the sins of humanity, instead his death is described as a human outcome of the fears of the religious authorities of the day.
  • Though Jesus is described as a "Paradise Son" of God and a high personality who is the "sovereign ruler of our universe," he is not accorded the rank of second person of the Trinity, as he is in Christianity.
  • The virgin birth is denied.
  • In rising from the dead, Jesus was in a "more glorified form" according to The Urantia Book teachings. His physical body was not raised. (The physical body of Lazarus was raised from the dead, however, according to the book.)
  • The return of Jesus is described as "an event of tremendous sentimental value," but otherwise "of no more practical importance to human beings than the common event of natural death, which so suddenly precipitates mortal man into the immediate grasp of that succession of universe events which leads directly to the presence of this same Jesus." The book says that it is not unreasonable to think that Jesus will return even more than once. Common Christian eschatology doctrines, such as the Rapture, where Jesus returns to take faithful believers to heaven and leaves behind unbelievers for tribulation, are denied.

As Fiction or Literature

From a literary point of view, the book is fairly exceptional in its ability to maintain a high level of internal consistency, while presenting an advanced mythology that draws on numerous sources related to history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, geology, and astronomy. Part I, II, and III are chiefly written in direct, expository language, whereas Part IV of the book, "The Life and Teachings of Jesus," is a rich story involving hundreds of well-developed characters, a high attention to detail, woven sub-plots, and realistic dialogue. As a standalone book, Part IV would be 774 pages, and in many ways is equal if not superior to other literary retellings of Jesus' life, such as "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ" by José Saramago and "Behold the Man" by Michael Moorcock. Many skeptics are dismissive of the book on the grounds that it purports to be a religious text, but others have enjoyed it as a form of science fiction. The "science fiction" aspect comes about from the book's extensive cosmology coupled with the fact that the listed authors and celestial sponsors of the text's individual Papers are said to hail from various diverse parts of creation.

Criticism

The book has not received a great deal of formal critical analysis due to its obscurity. From a skeptical point of view, the book contains numerous factual errors regarding the science it describes, and many passages have been documented as plagiarized from other sources. The book is not silent on these issues. Regarding the factual errors, the so-called supernal authors admit (http://www.ubook.org/cgi-bin/mfs/29/home/urantia/webdocs/upapers/ubpaper101.html?179#mfs) that "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." Regarding the passages plagiarized from other sources, The Urantia Book states in its Forward that it freely used "human concepts, assembled from the God-knowing mortals of the past and the present".

The book on occasion makes unsettling statements on racial issues, and at one point even claims that youth should be encouraged to study eugenics. A sample statement (http://www.ubook.org/cgi-bin/mfs/29/home/urantia/webdocs/upapers/ubpaper082.html?266#mfs): "As long as present-day races are so overloaded with inferior and degenerate strains, race intermingling on a large scale would be most detrimental, but most of the objections to such experiments rest on social and cultural prejudices rather than on biological considerations."

A number of outsized claims are made by the book about its own importance. The book matter of factly states that it is the Fifth Epochal Revelation in human history, the fourth revelation having been the life of Jesus Christ. It describes that "Truth is always a revelation: autorevelation when it emerges as a result of the work of the indwelling Adjuster; epochal revelation when it is presented by the function of some other celestial agency, group, or personality."

Much has been made of the mystery surrounding the origin of the book, by those who have read it. According to Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery by Martin Gardner, the Contact Commission originated with a group of former Seventh-day Adventists. He suspects that The Urantia Book was channeled through Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a physician and friend of Sadler's. Some others suspect that the "Contact Personality" -- who slept throughout all of the contact transactions -- was Edgar Cayce (http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/kpressler/page/). Sadler and other Contact Commission members, now all deceased, always claimed that the 196 Papers which comprise the published book were physically materialized (http://www.urantiabook.org/mullinshistory/sprunger_affidavit.htm). This materialization, paper by paper, was said to have been carried out over more than a decade in conjunction with an editing process involving a group of humans known as the Forum (http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/history/histumov.htm#forumstarted), whose entire function was to devise questions (http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/history/histumov.htm#thefirst) about the material. Only the material whose purpose was purportedly to educate Sadler and a few others in the new spiritual and cosmological concepts -- all of which preceded the reception (http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/history/histumov.htm#activitiespreceding) of the Papers -- may be said to have been "channeled", although the Contact Personality's mind is said in The Urantia Book to have been used in its reception (http://www.ubook.org/cgi-bin/mfs/29/home/urantia/webdocs/upapers/ubpaper114.html?266#mfs).

Adherents

Many people find the doctrines of The Urantia Book to be compelling for their detailed attempts to reconcile the innumerable discrepancies between modern science and religion. The Urantia movement does not purport to advocate any organized religion. By strict definition, adherents of the Urantia Book could be considered by some as involved in a cult, however in practice there are not many of the characteristics normally associated with cults. There is not a central charismatic figure, there are no hidden mysteries, there are no rituals or ceremonies, and there is not a teaching that the book's followers are chosen people whereas all others are lost. The book cautions (http://www.ubook.org/upapers/ubpaper091.html#P091_7_1) against practices associated with mysticism, rather than encouraging them. The book teaches that believers are to be both friendly and respectful of the humanity of, as well as the divinity in, all others. It teaches that since all people are children of a universal Paradise Father, spiritually all people are brothers and sisters. Its readers say The Urantia Book contains many advanced spiritual concepts that are conducive to growth.

Critics argue that, despite the claims of the Urantia movement not be an organized religion, it is a religion and has an organisation. These critics would say that claiming not be a religion does not make one not a religion -- one is a religion if one teaches doctrines religious in nature. Indeed, they would note that it may be useful for a religion to deny itself being a religion, to overcome any opposition to religion in potential adherents.

External links

fr:Urantia nl:Urantia

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