In the Christian Bible, although Bartholomew is referenced on a list of the 12 disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts, he is otherwise mentioned very infrequently, and was often believed to be Nathaniel. In some histories, it was the apostle Bartholomew who undertook a mission to India. The book of John, which has no formal list of the twelve, mentions Nathaniel in John, chapter 21, where he is included in a partial list of the disciples. The Catholic Church has declared: “coupled with the fact that the other evangelists always associate Philip with Bartholomew makes it probable that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel.” http://www.catholic-pages.com/saints/st_bartholomew.asp The confusion about the apostles Nathaniel and Bartholomew has hopefully been cleared up in The Urantia Book (The UB). In its only reference to Bartholomew, The UB points out that this was Nathaniel’s father’s name (The UB, 139:6.9).
John’s gospel tells us that Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus, also confirmed in The UB, “Nathaniel, the sixth and last of the apostles to be chosen by the Master himself, was brought to Jesus by his friend Philip.” (139:6.1). When Jesus sent forth the apostles “two and two,” (138:1.1) they traveled together.
Perhaps the confusion over the two names led to the persistent uncertainty over who went to India, Nathaniel or Thomas. The UB makes this definitive statement about Nathaniel who, after the Jewish holiday of Pentecost departed for lands to the east, “beyond Mesopotamia,” after Jesus’ crucifixion in 30 AD.
“Nathaniel differed increasingly with Peter regarding preaching about Jesus in the place of proclaiming the former gospel of the kingdom. This disagreement became so acute by the middle of the following month [following the ascension of Jesus on May 18, AD 30] that Nathaniel withdrew, going to Philadelphia to visit Abner and Lazarus; and after tarrying there for more than a year, he went on into the lands beyond Mesopotamia preaching the gospel as he understood it.” (193:6.4) This chronology would date the beginning of Nathaniel’s journey to approximately June or July of 31 AD.
There are two ancient historical accounts about the mission of Saint “Bartholomew” in India, the earliest written by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (early 4th century), and another by Saint Jerome (late 4th century). Both refer to the reported visit of Pantaenus from the Church of Alexandria to India in the 2nd century. In The UB version of events, “Pantaenus taught Clement and then went on to follow Nathaniel in proclaiming Christ in India.” (195:3.10)
However, another mystery dogs our steps, the discovery of Matthew’s Gospel in India in the third century. Eusebius writes that, while in India, St. Pantaenus was shown a copy of it written in Hebrew. We no longer have a surviving copy of this text in Hebrew, http://crossexamined.org/wrote-gospel-matthew/). Pantaenus was told that St. Bartholomew brought it there when he came to preach to the Hindu nation. Could St. Matthew's Gospel have been completed by the time of Nathaniel’s departure date, 31 AD? Even the earliest date put forth by bible scholars places the writing of “the First Gospel” at AD 50, and most don’t even accept such an early date. How could Nathaniel have carried it to India? Did he have a copy of his fellow apostle’s and friend’s first draft? It doesn’t seem likely he returned for it at a later time.
The studies of Friar A.C. Perumalil SJ and Moraes hold that the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, a region which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan, was where Saint Bartholomew conducted his missionary activities. Some believe this history became mixed with that of the Syrian Thomas Christians also known as the Nasrani.
I think The UB makes an attempt to alleviate the Thomas/Nathaniel confusion with this clarification: “Nathaniel's father (Bartholomew) died shortly after Pentecost, after which this apostle went into Mesopotamia and India proclaiming the glad tidings of the kingdom and baptizing believers. His brethren never knew what became of their onetime philosopher, poet, and humorist. But he also was a great man in the kingdom and did much to spread his Master's teachings, even though he did not participate in the organization of the subsequent Christian church. Nathaniel died in India.” (139:6.9)
What about the persistent tradition in India, and here in America, that the apostle Thomas preached in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu? The St. Thomas or Syrian Christians (Nasrani), presently 7 million strong, believe he arrived by sea at Maliankara, or Muziris, on the Malabar Coast in 52 AD. His founding of the seven Christian churches in Kerala is celebrated in a modern ballad, “The Song of the Lord Thomas.” Some of the tradition had mostly been forgotten until the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500’s when his grave and the “remains of the murdered saint” were supposedly discovered by a Portuguese priest. Thomas died there in 72 A.D. However, the Catholic Church does not accept the date, nor does the church validate his supposed martyrdom.
The later arrival of Canai Thomas, a Nazarene, or Syrian Christian, in 450 A.D. was grafted onto the earlier Kerala Christian stories of St. Thomas. Many think this later evangelist is the one around whom the traditions have gathered. Scholars dismiss the stories of Jesus’ apostle preaching there as “Thomas romances,” but these historians have not been able to prove to the local people that the research doesn’t validate the stories.
Chapter one of the book by HC Perumalil and ER Hambye, “Christianity in India- a History in Ecumenical Perspective,” skirts the controversy by accepting and discussing both the work of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thomas in India.
Christianity in this predominantly Hindu country has not been a resounding success, Hinduism being the religion adopted by 80% of the population. The total number of Christians in India according to the 2001 census was 24 million, or 2.34 percent of the population. The 2011 census showed a further, although insignificant, decline to 2.30 percent. We should note that the number of Hindus has also been declining since 1951. Hopefully, the expanded cosmology and gospel message of The Urantia Book, along with its more complete story of Jesus’ life, will do better.
I decided to respond to the Atlantic magazine’s recent survey. “Tell us: have you been part of a new religious movement,” https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2017/08/new-religious-movement/534513/. I was trying to finish a poem about a visit to tide pools on the Pacific Coast, when I accidentally revisited a phase of my life in my notebooks of 1977. I saw how far I had fallen. It was the same year I was introduced to The Urantia Book. Along with the friendships I made in sharing the teachings, The UB saved my life. Like Jonah who sought “God and his goodness,” I was offered new possibilities for the future. “The evil circumstances of life will spew [disheartened souls] out upon the dry land of fresh opportunities for renewed service and wiser living." (130:1.2)
Soon after Chappell introduced me to The UB, she took me to Salmon Creek beach on the Sonoma Coast to show me the friendly universe she’d told me about. I knew these beaches well. In my early days traveling through California, looking for a place to live and play music, my friends and I had camped there. We’d written songs to the constellations, sung Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” around the campfire on the, “windy beach far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow,” danced “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea.”
Here I was again, where sea meets sky and earth, with my new love. The incoming tide reflected billowing clouds where kelp forest and sea grass were washed flat by wave, whoosh and swirl. When the surge of tidewater paused and subsided, such moments of calm offered pictures of clarity in the many hued tide pools, where, like descending angels, the stars had left the wide open blue of empty sky to reincarnate as ochraceous starfish.
My soul mingled with the purple sea urchins, and scuttled with the hermit crabs dragging their borrowed shells, wiser ones hiding under shelves of stone or in waving tentacles of green anemones. I too had a shell like crab, too much like it, full of terror, hiding, protecting myself from the hurt, the reality, of being in love. A friend’s voice was singing to me, “let the seas rush in, let the sea gulls fly;” and I prayed that earth’s glory would meet my struggle for words to speak what this stumbling heart was feeling. Let there be a place for my devotion; may I find righteous deeds to do.
The tide washing in and out symbolized my old view of an impersonal universe. It represented the alternating conditions of good and evil where Good only randomly triumphed before Evil overcame it.
“The will of God is divine truth, living love; therefore are the perfecting creations of the evolutionary universes characterized by goodness—nearness to divinity … “ (3:6.2)
The UB saved my life, rescued me from the old reality that was not serving me well. In my volunteer work at the Family of God Foundation, I benefited from its teachings and learned to pray to a personal god, my Father.
Perhaps terror shows its face in nature, poses dangers in pounding surf, rip tides, and raging water. Yet sky, sea, beach, stars, fish, kelp combine to show me their true and beautiful intention, a loving panorama of the cosmos. In my deep mind, new possibilities were born for the future where I believed I had run out of opportunities and had none left. My life was about to change for the better.
Though we are urged in The Urantia Book (The UB) to progress beyond the primitive human tendency to read significance into our dreams, some of us still love to discover a guiding message, perhaps supernatural or providential, in our night visions. The warning we get is that it is “extremely dangerous to postulate as to the Adjuster content” of our dreams, even though they “do work during sleep.” (The UB, 110:5.5) In spite of these disclaimers, there are many examples of how dreams served an important function in our religious evolution, bringing changes that we should all feel grateful for: there is, “The dream origin of the belief in a future existence … [that] began effectively to antidote the death fear;” (86:4.2) and the story of the prophet Zoroaster who, “as the result of a dream while in Ur, … settled upon a program of returning to his northern home to undertake the remodeling of the religion of his people.” (95:6.2)
The dreams that took place at the birth of Jesus may have been instigated by seraphim rather than an indwelling spirit monitor (Adjuster). “Joseph did not become reconciled to the idea that Mary was to become the mother of an extraordinary child until after he had experienced a very impressive dream.” (122:4.1) Also, Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, only believed Elizabeth’s account of Gabriel’s visit, “after he had an unusual dream.” (135:0.1) These dream messages kept peace in the family and guided the men, who were perhaps feeling left out of such important events, to come to terms with their fate.
The famous “wise men” of song and story were guided by a religious teacher of Mesopotamia who “had a dream in which he was informed that "the light of life" was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews.” (122:8.6)
I have never been one to devote myself very much to dream interpretation, though I admit I’ve attempted it once in a while (see previous blog, http://www.urantiabook.org/dave-holt/dreams-celestial-messengers-and-the-light-of-life). So it was, that with my alternating mental backdrop of doubt and belief, on the night before Father’s Day (June 18th this year), I experienced one of those, “disordered and garbled” dreams we are cautioned against interpreting or speculating on by an Archangel of Nebadon, the author of paper 44:4.7.
My night visitation started out with a frightening scene on a high freeway overpass where I watched a man who, in turn, was watching his burned car (fire out, smoldering). There wasn’t much I could do, yet my service motive was obviously operating in low gear (I don’t remember offering help) – not such a noble beginning to what became a visionary experience. Soon after this traumatic beginning, I drove to San Francisco from Oakland and came upon what I was told in my dream was the River Thames. Many seasons of watching British television have familiarized me with the broad, impressive features of the Thames. I knew clearly this was not London, England’s river. Rather this was something far grander, more Paradise-like than that. The brilliant greens of the riverbanks, the dazzling blues of the summer sky, the sparkling waters that flowed and danced over the rocks, the people enjoying the park-like setting, the horses grazing nearby, created a vision of great beauty that declared the glory of God. “This is a glorification of God” was the very thought in my mind as I woke up on Father’s Day morning.
I sat down and wrote a tribute to my father in honor of the day, filled with this spirit of honoring his love, glorifying God my divine Father and Bob, my earthly father, at the same time.
Now here’s the irony, and I know Dr. Jung, interpreter of dreams, would appreciate the synchronicity. My father was born in London, Ontario, not far from the Canadian River Thames flowing through that city. However, it was not even the smaller version of the Thames in my dream. I believed it was a stream flowing out of the high heavens.
This is part of my Father’s Day Facebook post about Dad’s youth that brought many reactions in honor of his memory, “The Great Depression was the pivotal event for my dad, years when he was forced, or maybe chose (to be less of a burden on the family), to wander through the cold Canadian provinces seeking work. These were his teenage years—a transient and homeless time for him, as with many. … Like many survivors of the Dirty Thirties, Dad sang through the hard times; songs sustained him … I imagined him sitting atop the rolling boxcars, singing to high heaven while riding the rails, and I bet he got the other men to join in. He had a way of doing that.” https://www.facebook.com/OjibwayDescendant/posts/10154510800741078?pnref=story
Many people praised my father’s “triumph when others would have crumbled;” “he was a brave and courageous man;” “wise beyond his years;” “amazing person … he brought himself up.”
Namaste, Dad. “The god within me honors the god within you,"
I was on my way to Unity in San Leandro to do some music ministry, first time at this church, when I spilled my coffee all over the front seat. Fortunately the java deluge missed drenching my clothes so I didn’t have to drive home to change my shirt. When I asked my angels, “That’s the only bad thing that will happen today, right?” perhaps they were laughing. For sure, they were helping me to laugh about it.
Sunday’s theme at Unity was “power” so the singer had chosen songs to reflect it. What a relief to be talking about spiritual power for a change, rather than the power of money or politics. While I waited in the spring sun for someone to arrive and open up the church, I meditated on the theme, power that comes to assist the believer from the Spirit within.
“Faith is to religion what sails are to a ship; it is an addition of power, not an added burden of life.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 159:3.8) As Jesus taught, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light (Matthew 11:30).”
I sometimes wish I could help young people in our community who suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, even being unforgiven for their weaknesses. The culmination of such an inner darkness is depression, perhaps more commonly manic depression. We hope for the chance to tell them about the added power of faith.
I confess to a tendency to the belief, as an adult, that I’ve overcome phases of manic depression that I went through in my own young adult life. When honestly confronting myself, however, I realize there are still times I have to battle the demons back into their corner. One helpful attitude I have learned as a grown-up is to be unafraid to seek help from the indwelling spirit. But too many young people are afraid to look within. We must help them trust the process and pray for an opportunity when it feels right to offer it.
“The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.” (Ramakrishna)
“When the flood tides of human adversity, selfishness, cruelty, hate, malice, and jealousy beat about the mortal soul, you may rest in the assurance that there is one inner bastion, the citadel of the spirit, which is absolutely unassailable; at least this is true of every human being who has dedicated the keeping of his soul to the indwelling spirit of the eternal God.” (100:2.7)
In my early years of reading The Urantia Book, I made a pledge to follow the instructions Jesus gave to Fortune, The Young Man Who Was Afraid. I learned to “set [my] mind at work to solve its problems; teach [my] intellect to work for [me]; refuse longer to be dominated by fear like an unthinking animal. Your mind should be your courageous ally in the solution of your life problems rather than your being, as you have been, its abject fear-slave and the bond servant of depression and defeat.” (130:6.3) This requires progress in self-mastery as well as faith.
We can gain renewed confidence from prayer, being energized by “divinely creative” power (143:7.5) when we attain worshipful moments in our praying that add the power to transform. The UB compares our acts of faith to the action of a spiritual engine, a load-lifting lever. “In executing those decisions which deliver you from the fetters of fear, you literally supply the psychic fulcrum on which the Adjuster may subsequently apply a spiritual lever of uplifting and advancing illumination.” (108:5.8)
“… choosing to do the will of God joins spiritual faith to material decisions in personality action and thus supplies a divine and spiritual fulcrum for the more effective functioning of the human and material leverage of God-hunger.” (110:6.17)
Jesus taught his apostles that such a fulcrum could also be leveraged for social and economic solutions, “Religion is the exclusively spiritual experience of the evolving immortal soul of the God-knowing man, but moral power and spiritual energy are mighty forces which may be utilized in dealing with difficult social situations and in solving intricate economic problems.”(156:5.10)
This kind of faith is given a new term in the Urantia Book, a “power-presence,” as Jesus described it to Fortune, “Begin your deliverance from the evils of inaction by the power-presence of living faith.” (130:6.3)Such a faith as he taught is not passive, nor “a burden.” It is a powerful assault on what can seem like insurmountable problems, a spiritual force for solutions. Sometimes I can’t imagine how I would survive in this world without the added power of faith.
The rest of my Sunday worship at Unity went beautifully and as I’d suspected, nothing else bad happened beyond the coffee stain on my car seat. A Unity service will often quote from one of their founders, Charles Fillmore. About power he states, “Power is man's innate control over his thoughts [and] feelings. A quickening from on high must precede his realization of dominion. "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). God is All-Power, thus all things are possible with Him.”
I wrote a short essay/story about a community of artists among whom I lived some decades ago, and posted it so the others who were still in touch could read and comment. My piece ended this way, “I was on a quest for beauty and truth in my life. We lived in a surfeit of beauty. Nature was profligate with her bounty of beauty in rural, undeveloped Sonoma County. But what of truth? Was this it? Were we discovering a life to match our dreams, a life closer to our more authentic selves?”
One friend commented on the post, “Who doesn’t want a life to match their dreams? My dream was to be in a community of creative people and the circumstances we all shared attracted people who had a lot to offer. There was a seamlessness between our inner and outer lives that I wanted to keep on feeling.”
During my time in this community, I was in a phase of recovery and rehabilitation; I regained the urge to grow as a person, to make progress in my life. I felt a revival of desire, a zest for life. We were all fortunate to have the support of love and respect from friends.
“Know yourself” was written on the forecourt of the Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi, in the 6th century BC. It was inscribed there by the seven sages, the founders of Greek philosophy. Jesus extended this Greek watchword to include, “Knowing God and yourself as a son of God,” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 5:4.8) becoming the most real self one can be, close to that divine spark that carries our true purpose.
In further meditations about the most authentic self, I recalled, “When Thought Adjusters indwell human minds, they bring with them the model careers, the ideal lives, as determined and foreordained by themselves and the Personalized Adjusters of Divinington, which have been certified by the Personalized Adjuster of Urantia. Thus they begin work with a definite and predetermined plan for the intellectual and spiritual development of their human subjects, but it is not incumbent upon any human being to accept this plan.” (The UB, 110:2.1)
The Greek way leads to a knowing of one’s psychology, a psychoanalytic understanding of emotions, and the likely acquirement of a philosophy of life. However, it is a knowing that is more static than the dynamic knowledge of sonship, which by experiencing the love of the Father and learning to do his will, we place ourselves on a continuum of progress and growth, not simply an analysis of where we are. In sonship we feel encouragement and support of the purpose for which we were created.
“The highest happiness is indissolubly linked with spiritual progress.”(The UB, 100:4.3)
When I’m not in a place of close communion with the Father, I fall into an old pattern of measuring myself by external factors related to my writing career: how many publishing credits I’ve received, Facebook likes, invitations to read my work?
In the medical building one morning, I waited quite a while for the doctor to show up. I had time to look out the window at a wintry sky and meditate on being a son of God, learning to trust in his guiding presence. Barren trees awaited the budding out of spring. Plain, unadorned birds, possessing no particularly bright colors, flitted from branch to branch, expressing their joy and delight in just being birds, contented with the gift of their natural state, free from fear or anxiety. As I followed their flight, I too enjoyed my soul at rest in a renewed friendship with God, and was thankful for the blessing of old friends still in my life.
We learn much more about the ascension plan for surviving souls in The Urantia Book, (The UB), than from previous sources. Almost from the very beginning, in Paper 2, we learn what is revealed as the evolutionary “plan of progressive mortal ascension.” (2:3.6) Greater detail about the work of ascending mortals on the "mansion worlds" is soon to come (30:4).
I myself, a historian by nature, enjoy the perusal of an overview of how the plan was disclosed or understood in traditional literatures. I’ll cover some of it in this blog hoping you’ll share my joy in such excursions.
In Genesis, "When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu'selah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu'selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Genesis 5:21-24, my italics)
"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; … Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God." (Hebrews 11:5)
Did Enoch transition to “heaven” after “God took him”? “As the term heaven has been used on Urantia, it has sometimes meant [the] seven mansion worlds.” (The UB, 15:7.5)
“Enoch, [was] the first of the mortals of Urantia to fuse with the Thought Adjuster during the mortal life in the flesh.” (45:4.13) In The UB, he is now one of “the Urantia advisory council, the four and twenty counselors … the designated agents” of Gabriel and Michael (45:4.1).
Consider also the Bible stories of Elijah. "Now when the LORD was about to take Eli'jah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Eli'jah and Eli'sha were on their way from Gilgal… And as they still went on and talked, behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them.And Eli'jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Eli'sha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces." (2 Kings 2:1, 11-12)
Elijah is also included with the four and twenty counselors on Jerusem, described as “a translated soul of brilliant spiritual achievement during the post-Material Son age.” (45:4.15) In these Bible stories, ascenders do not usually return to Earth after being taken up to tell stories of their celestial adventures, except in the well-known case of St. Paul who reported to his followers on a experience of being caught up into the third heaven and then paradise (2 Corinthians:12).
In the “The Life of Adam and Eve,” or The Apocalypse of Moses, a first century Jewish, possibly Essene book, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth only Seth was able to witness the taking-up of Adam in a divine chariot at his funeral. In The UB account however, Adam and Eve died and were buried in the temple of the Second Garden (76:5.5).
In some cultures, and in many new age schools of thought, the ascending soul descends again to Earth to reincarnate, often to serve a higher purpose that he was entrusted with while “on high,” or more commonly to clear up a karmic debt. However, The UB doesn’t validate the return to a life on earth. Is it because the authors know there is so much more going on in the universe? Why go back to Urantia?
As The UB points out, Jesus attempted to refute these ancient ideas. “The older Jewish teachers, together with Plato, Philo, and many of the Essenes, tolerated the theory that men may reap in one incarnation what they have sown in a previous existence; thus in one life they were believed to be expiating the sins committed in preceding lives. The Master found it difficult to make men believe that their souls had not had previous existences.” (164:3.4)
Sometimes it is taught in Buddhism that a bodhisattva, in order to make known to humankind the heavenly mysteries, will return as an act of mercy to teach what they have seen and experienced. In a way, the “four and twenty counselors,” whose destiny it is “to follow the mortals of Urantia on through the universe scheme of progression and ascension,” (93:10.9) are performing the role of the bodhisattva. Their ascension careers are delayed while they serve Urantia’s planetary government. Like bodhisattvas, they are persons, former heroes of our history, “who are able to reach nirvana but delay doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.”
American Indians also have stories of divine transport to the heavens, sometimes interpreted in new age thought as “astral travelling.” In this example, as in all Native American lore that I know of, the transported one returns to tell his story, charged with a divinely bestowed task. In Hatcinoñdoñ’s case, his duty was to establish peace between warring tribes.
“Hatcinoñdoñ, the greatest warrior among the Seneca, once led a company against the Cherokee. They traveled until they came to the great ridge on the border of the Cherokee country, and then they knew their enemies were on the lookout on the other side.
“When Hatcinoñdoñ ran into a canebrake to escape the Cherokee, he was tired out, so he lay down and fell asleep. While he was asleep two men came and took him by the arm, saying: "We have come for you. Somebody has sent for you." They took him a long way, above the sky vault, until they came to a house. Then they said: "This is where the man lives who sent for you." He looked, but could see no door. Then a voice from the inside said "Come in," and something like a door opened of itself. He went in and there sat Hawëñni'o, the Thunder-god.
… “Then the Thunder said: "… I love both the Seneca and the Cherokee, and when you get back to your warriors you must tell them to stop fighting and go home." Again he brought food, half of each kind, and when Hatcinoñdoñ had eaten, the Thunder said, "Now my messengers will take you to your place.”
“The door opened again of itself, and Hatcinoñdoñ followed the two Sky People until they brought him to the place where he had slept, and there left him.” (James Mooney’s History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees)
In the Bible, the resurrection of the righteous dead and the attainment of immortality were first clearly taught in the book of Daniel (12:3), then greatly clarified by Jesus and the example of his own ascension. The UB offers a more exact definition of an ascending son than is traditionally given. Although a person may have survived and awakened on the initial mansion world, he or she is not yet considered an “ascending son,” or daughter.
“When you and your Adjusters are finally and forever fused, when you two are made one, even as in Christ Michael the Son of God and the Son of Man are one, then in fact have you become the ascending sons of God.” Until that point we are classified as “surviving mortals,” who are “planetary sons.” (40:7.2) Upon awakening from the status of sleeping survivors, we become Mansion World Students (30:4.14) in the third stage of mortal ascension.
To read further about your future career as an ascender, study the paper, “The Ascending Mortals,” (30:4.1) where you can learn more about the “seven stages of the ascending universe career.”
People have frequently asked us how we, Chappell and I, have done it. How have we stayed together over 39 years. It’s been difficult to give a short answer. Or we find ourselves speechless. On our 25th anniversary, with the help of many friends, we put on a large party at Larry Geis’s house in Sebastopol to celebrate the enduring love in our relationship. For the ceremony part, we put together some true quotes about the great bestowal of love, the powerful circuit that upholds this planet, the Great Circle. Here, with some new additions, is a long answer:
“Love is a striving, a seeking for that which is higher and greater than oneself.” (Plato, in Needleman’s The Heart of Philosophy)
“When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
“More handsome men might promise
To verb your noun or noun your verb,
But wife, for you, every Wednesday night,
I’ll drag the garbage to the curb…” (From Sherman Alexie, Marriage Song)
“Love is the outworking of the divine and inner urge of life.” (Jesus, The Urantia Book, p. 1898; 174:1.5)
“Love is the ancestor of all spiritual goodness, the essence of the true and beautiful.”
(Jesus to John, The Urantia Book, p. 1950; 192:2.1)
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments; Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his highth be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come; love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon my proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
(Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare)
From the Truth, Beauty and Goodness paper (Urantia Book, p. 646; 56:10.19)
“…truth, beauty, and goodness embrace the full revelation of divinity reality. As this love-comprehension of Deity finds spiritual expression in the lives of God-knowing mortals, there are yielded the fruits of divinity: intellectual peace, social progress, moral satisfaction, spiritual joy, and cosmic wisdom. Advanced mortals … have learned that love is the greatest thing in the universe--and they know that God is love.”
“Love is the desire to do good to others.” (A Mighty Messenger, The UB, 56:10.21)
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. (Mother to Son, Langston Hughes)
“You are destined to live a narrow and mean life if you learn to love only those who love you. Human love may indeed be reciprocal, but divine love is outgoing in all its satisfaction-seeking. The less of love in any creature's nature, the greater the love need, and the more does divine love seek to satisfy such need. Love is never self-seeking, and it cannot be self-bestowed. Divine love cannot be self-contained; it must be unselfishly bestowed.” (Jesus teaching at Tyre, The UB, 156:5.11)
Chappell and I together have lived with the challenges and ideals of love as a goal and we’ve helped each other to grow towards and with them.
We are told that Albert Einstein once said “I think the most important question facing humanity is: ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” The oft-quoted remarks, never substantiated, supposedly made by the world’s most famous scientist to a reporter, raise another question: Why might a scientist come to such a conclusion?
Cosmologist, Michael Heller, gave us a clue. “The extremely precise fit of human existence into the structure of the universe is surprising at first, but after a while suggests various responses. The first thing that comes to mind is the principle of purposefulness. How did the initial conditions know how to fine-tune in order to make our existence possible? With such a high level of fine-tuning, the probability of a random occurrence seems negligible.” (New Scientist, 12 March, 2008)
Recognizing that the universe must have been made for a high purpose is part of the creative design that science is helping uncover. In philosophy, this is called teleology, explaining creation from the purpose it serves rather than from its causes.
I was introduced to The Urantia Book, The UB, by my wife shortly after Thanksgiving Day 1977, according to one of my journal entries. She’d told me she believed this was “a friendly universe.” Curiosity aroused, I wondered how’d she manage to have such an amazing thought? I had to know. And that’s what led to me accepting an invitation to visit her house. There she opened the big blue book to my wondering eyes!
Astounding as it is that we have been given such a universe, that it was even created this way, the revelation alone is not enough. Many believe otherwise, that it is founded on violent hatred, and daily experiences on planet Earth would certainly lead someone to that conclusion. The believers’ challenge is to reveal in our actions “the circuit of divine love” (5:6.12) that embraces all. Our planetary isolation makes the need more compelling. We must take this step in evolution though we falter and seem to fail. We must make creation’s inherent nature of friendliness manifest, and make the love of God real in our human experience on this lonely planet.
What if we could choose to live in full awareness of our inheritance as citizens of a friendly universe? If we could have such faith, why wouldn’t we choose it?
Have I experienced the universe as friendly? I often ask myself this question as I review the many times I’ve been rescued from disasters I created for myself. It was obvious that God and his angels were watching over me.
I often recall Jesus’ interpretation of the tale of Jonah and the whale that he offered to Gadiah in Joppa. “No matter into what great depths they may have fallen, when they seek the light with a whole heart, the spirit of the Lord God of heaven will deliver them from their captivity; the evil circumstances of life will spew them out upon the dry land of fresh opportunities for renewed service and wiser living." (130:1.2)
In The UB Jesus taught Fortune we can depend on the friendly support of physical reality itself; “You may be surrounded with small enemies and be retarded by many obstacles, but the big things and the real things of this world and the universe are on your side. The sun rises every morning to salute you just as it does the most powerful and prosperous man on earth.” (130:6.3, p. 1437)
In choosing to live by the “highest interpretation” of the golden rule, “spirit-led mortals … are filled to overflowing with the assurance of citizenship in a friendly universe.” (180:5.8)
Of course, faith in a friendly universe strengthens fellowship and inspires acts of true brotherhood. “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.” (100:6.3)
In a friendly universe we don’t succumb to pressures to conform, to follow accepted conventions and patterns of human behavior. We are “empowered” to offer our original expressions of the spirit. Jesus spoke about his universe as a gift of true freedom to all humankind. “I have come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God.” (141:5.1, pg. 1591)
Novels such as “1984,” which just recently rebounded into the current Top Ten book list, depict a harsh and cruel universe in which totalitarian regimes suppress originality and demand conformity. Our schools regularly offer young people these bleak and existential literary visions, while being confounded and baffled about how to teach them stories of love, service, and inspired purpose.
Other world religions have explored the truth of these ideas of empowerment and freedom. Before Jesus’s time, Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tze, was aware of the friendly universe. He taught his followers, “Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.” (Tao Te Ching, Verse 23).
So too the authors of the Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita (BG). They shared an awareness of cosmic support that, like Ganesha of the folk tales, would remove the stones in our pathway to the Supreme: “In all activities just depend upon me (the Supreme) and work always under my protection … If you become conscious of me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditional life by my Grace.” (BG, 18:57-58)
Indeed The UB goes into even greater detail about how our actions and decisions contribute to the growth of the Supreme, “the evolving God of time and space.” (0:2.15)
In Buddhism, one devotee taught, “Be on friendly terms with the universe. If you feel friendly toward the universe, the universe will feel friendly toward you.” (from a commentary on the Ratana Sutta, the Jewel Discourse) Hindu teachers understood that this friendliness will be reciprocated with love. “However men try to reach me I return their love with my love; whatever path they may travel, it leads to me in the end.” (BG 4.11)
Jesus revealed the true glory of the universe in his acts of love and devotion. “The Master has taught the apostles that they are the sons of God. He has called them brethren, and now, before he leaves, he calls them his friends.” (180:1.6)
Sources: Fuller rendition of the Einstein Q: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=797
Also see: wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein#Misattributed
Interview with Heller: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13454-qa-2008-templeton-prize-winner/
“Spiritual living mightily increases true self-respect.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 156:5.14)
I remember her walking in the high school hallways to her next classroom, one of our elderly teachers, too much rouge in her cheeks, wearing old-fashioned, wire frame eyeglasses before they became fashionable with hippies. Granny Greaves we nicknamed her. Like high school boys sometimes do, especially the alienated ones, we were studying well how to disrespect our elders. She was our guidance counselor.
One day in my ninth grade year, an appointment was made for me to see her. She had my IQ results which impressed her. While she spoke to me about being “a pupil of high potential,” I could see she wanted me to have confidence in my abilities, to empower the emerging self that was struggling to come out of its cocoon, put my willpower behind these gifts, think about making some decisions, taking a direction. But I didn’t want to look at them or even deal with it. My casual disregard unnerved her. Worse in her eyes was the tangle of emotions she must have seen that was concealing a damaged sense of self-worth. I was wounded, beginning to find ways to strike back.
I think she could have helped me but I refused help. “If you would obtain heavenly help, put away your pride,” (The UB, 131:7.3, Shinto) but the desire for spiritual help didn’t come until later in my life.
I see these traits in teenagers now, the rebellion and the resistance, some of whom I am tutoring. Mrs. Greaves wouldn’t have been able to tame my hurt feelings in one sitting, restore belief in myself and encourage some healthy pride. Perhaps all this was even beyond her skill set but oh, now I wish I’d let her start with the help. I’d have had something to build on.
Quite a long time ago, I finally put aside rebellion and started to study spiritual progress. “The sincere religionist is conscious of universe citizenship and is … thrilled and energized with the assurance of belonging to a superior and ennobled fellowship of the sons of God. The consciousness of self-worth has become augmented by the stimulus of the quest for the highest universe objectives—supreme goals.” (100:6.3)
“The self has surrendered to the intriguing drive of an all-encompassing motivation which imposes heightened self-discipline, lessens emotional conflict, and makes mortal life truly worth living. The morbid recognition of human limitations is changed to the natural consciousness of mortal shortcomings, associated with moral determination and spiritual aspiration to attain the highest universe and superuniverse goals. And this intense striving for the attainment of supermortal ideals is always characterized by increasing patience, forbearance, fortitude, and tolerance.” (100:6.4)
Because of this quote, I looked up the word morbid and read that it is “an unhealthy mental state, unwholesomely gloomy,” and it describes “a pessimist given to thoughts of death” as the Latin root mor-, mort, shows. When I came to God, hungry and thirsting for righteousness, one of the first things I desired the spirit to do with me was to heal this wounded self-esteem, replace morbidity with optimism.
Jesus taught his followers, “the loss of self-respect often ends in paralysis of the will. It is the purpose of this gospel to restore self-respect to those who have lost it and to restrain it in those who have it. Make not the mistake of only condemning the wrongs in the lives of your pupils; remember also to accord generous recognition for the most praiseworthy things in their lives. Forget not that I will stop at nothing to restore self-respect to those who have lost it, and who really desire to regain it.” (159:3.3)
Wounds are very close to our source of spiritual power. When we experience woundedness, we’ve become separated from our true inner selves, our spiritual natures, the Father fragments we’ve received (in UB terms), and we instinctively seek to undertake a journey of reunification. A mentor’s permission along with strength to go on the quest is often needed. This is why writers are often trained to use “the power of their wounds.” Leonard Cohen sang his Anthem, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Hemingway said something similar in A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Long before both of them, the poet Rumi in Childhood Friends wrote about, “the bandaged place, that’s where the light enters you.” Thank you, Jesus, for your light that healed me!
I think many of us believe we’re guided by our dreams at times. A few days before the death of my mother last year, I had what I called a healing dream, an affirmation of the journey of the soul to the next worlds. “My soul sings the song I received, as it flies down to the broad calm sea, dotted with white sails, boats on brave journeys, sailing to a glimpsed peace on the far horizon.”
In The Urantia Book (The UB), several dreams are accredited to the traditional Biblical Christmas story. A purpose of The UB is sometimes to sort, evaluate, and adjust accepted history, to present us a coherent picture of the nature of reality. Its version of the birth of Jesus makes several new adjustments to the received myth.
“At the noontide birth [August 21, 7 B.C.] of Jesus the seraphim of Urantia, assembled under their directors, did sing anthems of glory over the Bethlehem manger, but these utterances of praise were not heard by human ears. No shepherds nor any other mortal creatures came to pay homage to the babe of Bethlehem until the day of the arrival of certain priests from Ur, who were sent down from Jerusalem by Zacharias [father of John the Baptist].” (122:8.5)
How did these priests, known as the Magi (Persian astrologers), come to learn of the advent of Jesus? What inspired their month-long caravan journey to Jerusalem? It was a contact with an unnamed spiritual teacher, “These priests from Mesopotamia had been told sometime before by a strange religious teacher of their country that he had had a dream in which he was informed that "the light of life" was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews. And thither went these three teachers looking for this "light of life.” (122:8.6)
Such dreams, harbingers of Michael’s bestowal, occur several times in the narrative. Zacharias, the father of John, later to become “the Baptist,” learned about Jesus in a dream. “It was not until about six weeks before John’s birth that Zacharias, as the result of an impressive dream, became fully convinced that Elizabeth was to become the mother of a son of destiny, one who was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.” (122:2.5)
Notice that he views the birth through the lens of Jewish tradition, “the long-expected Messiah,” (122:4.2) a role Jesus later disavowed. Dreams do not necessarily give accurate information.
In Joseph’s dream, we come upon a significant detail: he is told by a celestial messenger. “Joseph did not become reconciled to the idea that Mary was to become the mother of an extraordinary child until after he had experienced a very impressive dream. In this dream a brilliant celestial messenger appeared to him…” (122:4.1)
The “angel” Gabriel’s appearances to Elizabeth and Mary are described as supernatural. Why not the vivid dreams of Joseph and Zacharias? They seem so much more than dreams, more like divine visitations. The UB is normally cautionary about the “great danger in all these psychic speculations” (100:5.6) about dream life.
The term “supernatural event” is used to describe the contact of the seraphim through midwayers. "Certain wise men of earth knew of Michael’s impending arrival. Through the contacts of one world with another, these wise men of spiritual insight learned of the forthcoming bestowal of Michael on Urantia. And the seraphim did, through the midway creatures, make announcement to a group of Chaldean priests whose leader was Ardnon. These men of God visited the newborn child in the manger. The only supernatural event associated with the birth of Jesus was this announcement to Ardnon and his associates by the seraphim of former attachment to Adam and Eve in the first garden." (119:7.6)
Many have puzzled over this paragraph and its strong implication that there were more “wise men of earth” who learned of the Creator Son’s birth/bestowal, more than just the famous Persian star-followers.
Urantian author, Merritt Horn, once asked the question, “If the seraphim’s announcement to the priests was ‘the only supernatural event associated with the birth of Jesus,’ then to what does the phrase in the very same paragraph, ‘through the contacts of one world with another’ refer?”
Are contacts that don’t involve appearances by Gabriel or midwayers more normal in some way? By inference then, the dreams that Joseph, Zacharias, and “the strange religious teacher” had are a more natural means of communication, not considered supernatural per The UB.
Perhaps quite a few wise men experienced dream contacts. But only Ardnon and his fellows had direct seraphic contact, as if the seraphim had discovered men of action and, through direct confrontation, decided to more strongly encourage the “wise men” to make their pilgrimage.
Scientists have offered different versions of what the astronomical event, the Star of Bethlehem, probably was. One theory coincides with The UB’s date: the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn between May and December of 7 B.C. http://www.space.com/14036-christmas-star-bethlehem-comet-planet-theories.html
It was three weeks after Jesus’ birth that, “they came bearing gifts,” to Mary (Matthew 2:1-12).
“These wise men saw no star to guide them to Bethlehem. The beautiful legend of the star of Bethlehem originated in this way: Jesus was born August 21 at noon, 7 B.C. On May 29, 7 B.C., there occurred an extraordinary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces.” (122:8.7)
May the light of the gospel, given by our great master-teacher, shine brightly as that star in our lives in the coming year.
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