For his judgment hall, the wise King Solomon had constructed a large chamber 50 cubits long and 30 cubits wide attached to the original temple (a cubit is the length of a forearm, 20 to 21 inches). The enormous portico in front was built of cedar “of the forest of Lebanon,” (I Kings 7) and was known as “the porch of judgment,” then in Jesus's time as “Solomon’s porch.” The historian Josephus Flavius (War of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5) described it as an area of the original temple that survived the attack of the Babylonians in 586 B. C., four hundred years later, who left it standing because of its immense size and beauty.
Here the doctors of the law met to hear and answer questions. Jesus also taught in the outer court where non-Jews could gather and listen to his words. The Urantia Book (The UB) tells us Jesus spoke there several times. “Although his disciples had not expected Jesus to attend the feast, the vast majority of the pilgrims from afar who had heard of him entertained the hope that they might see him at Jerusalem. And they were not disappointed, for on several occasions he taught in Solomon’s Porch and elsewhere in the temple courts. These teachings were really the official or formal announcement of the divinity of Jesus to the Jewish people and to the whole world.” (The UB, 162:1.9)
One of the speeches that Jesus made there, recorded in John, Chapter 7, is greatly expanded in The UB account. In Paper 162, we can read not one, but three sermons, or discourses that he gave during this same Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot). They are the “Sermon on the Light of the World” (sec. 5); the “Discourse on the Water of Life” (sec. 6); and the “Discourse on Spiritual Freedom” (sec. 7):
"If my words abide in you and you are minded to do the will of my Father, then are you truly my disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. I know how you will answer me: We are the children of Abraham, and we are in bondage to none; how then shall we be made free? Even so, I do not speak of outward subjection to another’s rule; I refer to the liberties of the soul.” (162:7.2)
"I know that you are Abraham’s seed, yet your leaders seek to kill me because my word has not been allowed to have its transforming influence in their hearts. Their souls are sealed by prejudice and blinded by the pride of revenge.” (162:7.3)
“Now … at my side [a scribe] asks … Who do you claim to be that you dare to utter such blasphemies?' And I say to all such that, if I glorify myself, my glory is as nothing. But it is the Father who shall glorify me, even the same Father whom you call God. But you have failed to know this your God and my Father, and I have come to bring you together; to show you how to become truly the sons of God. Though you know not the Father, I truly know him.” (162:7.5)
In John 10:22, the Biblical record shows that he spoke again in Solomon’s porch at the Feast of Dedication. Some of what is written of this event in the Bible actually took place at the earlier Feast of the Tabernacles according to The UB.
Whereas at the Feast of the Tabernacles, Jesus proclaimed the gospel to pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire, his purpose this time was to speak to the Sanhedrin. Two of the apostles who accompanied him on this “secret” mission, Thomas and Nathaniel, raised anxious objections to his going into Jerusalem. He replied, "I would give these teachers in Israel another opportunity to see the light, before my hour comes." (164:0.2) Though the most striking event of this occasion, the healing of Josiah the blind beggar (a story that occupies most of Paper 164), had important consequences, the truly major address he gave was at the home of Nicodemus; “Here were gathered together some twenty-five Jewish leaders who believed Jesus' teaching. (164:2.1)
“When this little meeting broke up, all went away mystified by the Master’s personality, charmed by his gracious manner, and in love with the man.” (164:2.3)
Sources used: http://www.bible-history.com/backd2/solomons_porch.html
Do you ever wonder why you know what beauty is even though you can’t define it? (The Daily Motivator, Ralph S. Marston Jr., 11/13/09)
The art critic, Robert Hughes, once said about the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya’s work, “It tries to be true, not beautiful.” Goya was known for painting the extremes of human experience, “not the mild quotidian middle ground,” as writer John Updike described daily life in his New Yorker review (of the Goya show).
Beauty without truth content can be merely sentimental. The work of artist Thomas Kincaide, the romanticized lighthouses and cottages, is a good example of someone who’s criticized for this aesthetic flaw. Whatever critics might say, Kincaide’s financial success and enormous popularity have made it clear—not everyone rejects purely sentimental art.
On the other hand, if art is presented with too much truth and no goodness to balance it out, it can come off as harsh or unpleasant like some modern expressionism does, or “disturbing” and “pessimistic” as Goya is described. Truth without hope is one way of describing this type of art.
If we include a philosophy of goodness, a picture of the universe as “friendly” in spite of appearances to the contrary, such an insight leads us to offer hope along with our truth. The Urantia Book (The UB) equates “sublime hope,” a higher, spiritual and transcendent hope, with faith, as Jesus taught Nabon, a Greek and Jewish leader of the Mithraic mystery cult (now there’s an interfaith achievement for you!)
“But truth can never become man’s possession without the exercise of faith. This is true because man’s thoughts, wisdom, ethics, and ideals will never rise higher than his faith, his sublime hope.”(The UB, 132:3.5)
I find it a satisfying and more complete vision that, not only is there a law of conservation of energy on the scientific-physical plane, but also one of goodness on the spiritual-emotional plane as The UB confirms. “On the mansion worlds [the seraphic evangels] proclaim the great law of the conservation and dominance of goodness: No act of good is ever wholly lost; it may be long thwarted but never wholly annulled, and it is eternally potent in proportion to the divinity of its motivation.” (48:6.7)
Truth, beauty, and goodness provide a kind of working grid for an artist, poet, musician, writer, etc., seeking spiritual progress, striving for creative achievement, and as Integral philosopher Steven McIntosh said, these values can be understood as, “the actual directions of evolution.” We use these Perfect Forms or Ideas originally derived from Plato’s Republic (380 BC) as a guide to finding God, and/or as McIntosh further observed, for “guiding cultural evolution toward a more positive future.”(http://www.integralworld.net/mcintosh4.html) Those building a conscious philosophy of life may discover what is known as a teleological model, the purpose for their work.
One morning, as I was driving to a Urantia readers gathering, I thanked God for his presence in my life. The sun was coming up over the hills on a beautiful spring day. Recently, people had been hurling the familiar, old rebuff my way: we religionists and truth seekers were in the grip of an illusion. But that old Greek philosopher had revealed to me Truth, Beauty and Goodness (or Justice, all unified by Goodness) as the holy foundations of the earth. The Platonic triad was also a signpost on the road for “understanding where evolution is headed.” (McIntosh) Through Plato, I’d first experienced the insight that random evolution without purpose did not adequately explain the origin of the universe for me. This beautiful sunrise over the mountain vista I passed on the freeway was not a random, coincidental, accidental result of nature’s earth movements, not just another event in an endless sea of dark space, it gave expression to a divine purpose.
When in Alexandria, Jesus had a “heart to heart talk” with Ganid about Plato’s teachings, he wanted to teach some “qualified” enhancements to Plato that were needed for “a more trustworthy foundation.” Having more insight into the cosmos, Jesus added absolute personality, and a new concept, “the knowing of the Supreme.” In addition to the changeless “Absolutes,” that Plato introduced, Jesus further told his eager, though sleepy, apprentice about the importance of recognizing the Universal Father’s “Original Personality,” and the “creative bestowal of personality,” which “can coexist with unlimited change and at the same time retain its identity.” (130:4) Although Plato’s philosophy of the absolutes had not included personality, nor seen its capacity to synthesize Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, “Personality inherently reaches out to unify all constituent realities.” (56:4.2)
“Even truth, beauty, and goodness—man's intellectual approach to the universe of mind, matter, and spirit—must be combined into one unified concept of a divine and supremeideal.As mortal personality unifies the human experience with matter, mind, and spirit, so does this divine and supreme ideal become power-unified in Supremacy and then personalized as a God of fatherly love.” (56:10.15)
The disciplines of art, music, literature, and philosophy, serve as stepping stones for seekers to experience a revelation of truth, beauty and goodness. “The supreme beauty, the height of finite art, is the drama of the unification of the vastness of the cosmic extremes of Creator and creature. Man finding God and God finding man.” (56:10.3, p. 646)
Creativity, a “function of the inner life,” (111:4.11) aids us in the achievement of closeness and communion with a seemingly distant God. These are the beginning baby steps to our eventual unification as mature spiritual beings with a personal God and the Supreme Being.
I confess to being a naturally paranoid person, thus my reaction to last Tuesday’s election result has been to turn off the news, retreat from the outside world. I’m not recommending this behavior. I do it for fear of what too much exposure might do to my wellbeing. If I didn’t put my blinkers on while swimming the news-stream that’s rolling in, I’d likely have to get a straitjacket to tie me down, or a lifejacket (also suffering a severe case of mixed metaphors!) Anyway, not so my wife, Chappell, or my Facebook friends who are fiercely observing current events; there is plenty of leakage into my little world.
A lot of people I know are sick, fearful, despairing here on the left coast, where I’m now hearing the “coastal elites” live. Why is that said disparagingly? As I heard someone remark, “what’s wrong with being part of an elite; don’t we all strive for that kind of excellence?” My first post on Facebook was a kind of David Remnick (editor of The New Yorker) howl about the forces of authoritarianism, and I echoed his conclusion, “despair is no answer.” My second public “posting” was a poem “Observances” and I was grateful to David Kantor who made and shared a video of it to his list, happy to be appreciated.
I’d like to say a few words about the process behind that poem, an old one that I felt led back to revisit. I’d first attempted it in 2004 not long after the Iraq invasion and George Bush’s re-election. I found I had gone through a lot of roadblocks, stalls, uncertainties, before finally setting it aside, three unfinished versions, with no actually completed poem to show. This time, as I reworked it, I found no difficulty organizing the emotions expressed. The years had given me a matured perspective. I recognized that the poem spoke about the difficulties of the spiritual search, whereas perhaps 12 years before I’d only wanted the epiphanies, the joys, and thus, because of the struggles it reveals, couldn’t write it to my satisfaction.
“Religious perplexities are inevitable; there can be no growth without psychic conflict and spiritual agitation. The organization of a philosophic standard of living entails considerable commotion in the philosophic realms of the mind. Loyalties are not exercised in behalf of the great, the good, the true, and the noble without a struggle. (The Urantia Book, The UB, 100:4.2)”
Then Blue Monday morning, both Chappell and I woke up with new thoughts to counteract our fears. She wanted to make love a priority, including more hugs, kisses, and physical contact. My wake up call was I wanted to firmly resolve the true goal as the pursuit of happiness. In the same moment, we had both experienced these realizations separately.
Then within a couple of days, another great synchronicity, the quote that showed up from Hafiz of Persia (born 1326), “When all your desires are distilled, you will cast just two votes: to love more, and be happy,” the same leadings we had heard from the Spirit. Of further interest was his use of the word “votes.”
I have asked God to strengthen me in sharing the message the world needs to hear: the love of God rules this universe and our world and his sons are here with us to guide and steer.
"He who has seen me has seen the Father." To hear Jesus' teaching is not equivalent to knowing God, but to see Jesus is an experience which in itself is a revelation of the Father to the soul. The God of universes rules the far-flung creation, but it is the Father in heaven who sends forth his spirit to dwell within your minds.” (The UB, 169:4.12)
As we have been so led, let us embrace love and claim happiness.
From the muggings and thuggery,
life within the big picture,
I learned hard-earned humility.
Myself, I think of as forward trending,
gently bending. Body blows taught me
our perceptions cannot be depended on
as true … necessarily.
I’ve boxed with God’s shadow,
lived in his light, attempted retreat,
predisposed to contemplations,
punctilious clicking, one bead against another,
mulling over a myriad of truisms
recited like careful rosaries,
repeating things that earn
blessings and approval,
unsure of their right fit
for the moment I’m in.
I don’t know if my prayer ascends.
I shade burning eyes
from the flash of sky.
Try not to misread the horizon.
Found out I must in some measure
still trust. Must rely
on insights I personally own;
can’t take him at his divine word.
Time to act, use the passion
that lives in our bones;
rehearse the instincts.
Speak from authentic knowledge.
Put away the scattered yarrow stalks,
Chinese coins, the thrown dice. Move
through the open door before it closes,
turn the sticking wheel,
give it to your Spirit Guide,
a guardian, an ally, someone who can steer.
Put pedal to the metal. Drive on towards dawn.
“When children have their ideals, do not dislodge them; let them grow.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 48:6.32)
One of the joys of teaching young adults, if you’re fortunate to have the opportunity, is the discovery of the ideals seeking to grow in their hearts. Sometimes I run into cynicism about education coming from teenagers who only want to get a high GPA, learn the rules on how to conform to a conventional work formula, get a degree that will earn them that good job, and then go out and make money. But I also find there are many young adults with ideals that go beyond the materialistic concerns.
As teachers, we can’t teach them what to value; we can only help them learn to be good evaluators of what they discover should most be valued. In their search for excellence, I want the kids I am tutoring to learn how to choose their highest values. Hopefully I can lead them to the “spirit-value sorter—the indwelling interpreter;” (196:3.17) the sorting, getting the order right, is important, to rewrite their stories of purpose if they discover they didn’t choose correctly at first. This kind of work is greatly helped by prayer, or the cultivation of an inner life, but in my secular role, I am limited there and can’t offer that kind of guidance.
“The advances of true civilization are all born in this inner world of mankind. It is only the inner life that is truly creative. Civilization can hardly progress when the majority of the youth of any generation devote their interests and energies to the materialistic pursuits of the sensory or outer world.” (111:4.3)
In my experience teaching history, I’ve seen that their inner lives, or their imaginations, resonate with the statements of our Western civilization’s ideals. They are inspired by the narratives of tolerance and human freedoms that culminated in our historic documents such as the Magna Carta and the American Declaration of Independence.
One of my students wanted to focus on lifting people out of poverty so he wrote an essay on the topic: why does poverty persist in such a wealthy nation as ours?
While discussing the Dalai Lama, another boy responded positively to a suggestion I offered about choosing a life direction of learning kindness and service to the poor.
Jesus taught, “In dealing with children, avoid all deception and refrain from suggesting suspicion. Wisely help them to choose their heroes and select their lifework.” (140:5.14)
In one young man’s writing, he envisioned a world where there was no more hatred. He was eagerly anticipating a trip planned for his class in spring when they will visit the United Nations in New York.
The UB urges us to help them nurture their natural altruism and enlightened unselfishness—love (180:5.10). “Human happiness is achieved only when the ego desire of the self and the altruistic urge of the higher self (divine spirit) are co-ordinated and reconciled by the unified will of the integrating and supervising personality. The mind of evolutionary man is ever confronted with the intricate problem of refereeing the contest between the natural expansion of emotional impulses and the moral growth of unselfish urges predicated on spiritual insight—genuine religious reflection.” (103:5.5)
No one is more caught up in this internal tug of war between emotions and unselfish urges than young people. At times, I wonder if many of them are beginning to feel the roots of civilization are threatened, and that our institutions are not working: “Today the nations of the world are directed by men who have a superabundance of ideas, but they are poverty-stricken in ideals. That is the explanation of poverty, divorce, war, and racial hatreds.” (111:4.10)
Because this stark political reality was so apparent to them, they supported Bernie Sanders in large numbers in our election primaries.
Putting the controversies of politics aside, there is the more important work of character growth. “Even secular education could help in this great spiritual renaissance if it would pay more attention to the work of teaching youth how to engage in life planning and character progression. The purpose of all education should be to foster and further the supreme purpose of life, the development of a majestic and well-balanced personality.” (195:10.17)
And finally The UB suggests what the supreme goal of education should be. “Give every developing child a chance to grow his own religious experience; do not force a ready-made adult experience upon him. Remember, year-by-year progress through an established educational regime does not necessarily mean intellectual progress, much less spiritual growth. Enlargement of vocabulary does not signify development of character. Growth is not truly indicated by mere products but rather by progress. Real educational growth is indicated by enhancement of ideals, increased appreciation of values, new meanings of values, and augmented loyalty to supreme values.” (100:1.3)
The eviction notice posted on the church door, February 24, 2016, announced that as of Tuesday, March 1st, the John Coltrane Church had sixty days to leave its home on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. This forced departure marked the shuttering of one of the few remaining jazz venues in the neighborhood once known as “Harlem of the West”.
San Francisco was and is changing, transforming more quickly than anyone can remember seeing before, old time businesses losing their longtime store locations. But the good news is: the Saint John Coltrane Church has a new address, 2097 Turk Street, in its home city.
The founders of the church, Franzo and Marina King, were celebrating their first wedding anniversary in 1965 when they saw the great saxophonist, who’d been “discovered” by Dizzie, Miles and others, playing at a now defunct jazz nightclub. It was when they first felt the transformative power of John Coltrane’s music. “We experienced the effectual transference of the Holy Ghost through sound,” Franzo King later wrote on the church’s website. They began their spiritual outreach in 1971, holding Sunday noon-time mass services on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, http://www.coltranechurch.org/, a ministry that’s going strong in 2016.
There’s a statement that has always intrigued many readers of The Urantia Book. “Some day a real musician may appear on Urantia, and whole peoples will be enthralled by the magnificent strains of his melodies. One such human being could forever change the course of a whole nation, even the entire civilized world.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 44:1.15)
John Will-I-Am Coltrane set out purposefully to do spiritual work -- his mission: to uplift people as an evangel with his music. In his 1965 album, Meditations, Coltrane wrote about the goal: “to inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life.” In October of that same year, Coltrane recorded Om (the sacred chanted sound in Hinduism that symbolizes the infinite), in which he described Om as the "first syllable, the primal word, the word of power". His recording included chants from the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad-Gita.
Coltrane’s universalist view, his exploration of other religions, mixed well in the melting pot of spiritual traditions found in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 70s. This local cultural diversity evolved and became the foundation of a later interfaith movement. And perhaps this is why the idea of the John Coltrane Church was seeded here, and found a fruitful place to grow.
Coltrane’s spiritual journey began with an investigation into a “universal musical structure that transcended ethnic distinctions” in an effort to harness the mystical language of music itself. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Coltrane
“Harmony, the music of the seven levels of melodious association, is the one universal code of spirit communication.” (44:1.11)
In Coltrane’s study of Indian music, he came to believe that certain sounds and scales could “produce specific emotional meanings.” The goal of a musician was to understand these forces, control them, elicit a worshipful response from the audience, and even heal his listeners.
“It is literally true, ‘melody has power a whole world to transform.’ Forever, music will remain the universal language of men, angels, and spirits. Harmony is the speech of Havona.” (44:1.15)
Coltrane said: "I would like to bring to people something like happiness. … If one of my friends is ill, I'd like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed."
Although in the Saint Coltrane Church services, people experience the same effect described in The UB from his melodies, I couldn’t help having doubts that he was the person described in The UB. I didn’t even think that George Harrison was such a musician, even though with the Beatles, he and the group changed the course of the entire planet in the 1960’s. Could it be that the Beatles fulfilled the prophecy made in Paper 44 of The Urantia Book?
An obvious difficulty with them fitting The UB description was that the quote refers to one male individual. The phenomena the Beatles brought in with their success and their cult of young believers were not often so celestial. So I harken back to earlier eras, to when the genius of Mozart and Bach flourished, admiring the greatness of their work. Yet The UB authors can still say this about Urantia’s music, “The best music of Urantia is just a fleeting echo of the magnificent strains heard by the celestial associates of your musicians.” (44:1.14). Makes me wonder what we’re in store for.
Coltrane’s musical art had more than a religious foundation. His “sound” was also shaped by the civil rights movement that swept America in the late 50s and 60s. In 1964, Coltrane played eight benefit concerts in support of Martin Luther King. On the Sunday morning of September 15, 1963, a dozen sticks of dynamite planted by white racists in the basement of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church exploded, killing four young black girls aged between 11 and 14. The Birmingham murders moved him to create one of his most poetic works, “Alabama,” and he patterned the saxophone lines on the resonant cadences of the speech Martin Luther King made at the funeral.
“Science lives by the mathematics of the mind; music expresses the tempo of the emotions. Religion is the spiritual rhythm of the soul in time-space harmony with the higher and eternal melody measurements of Infinity.” (195:7.20)
If you never have before, give a listen to the Black Classical music that helped liberate our country from bonds of segregation and prejudice. It’s the music of the civil rights movement, made for all people who have been held down, held back from reaching their potential. This music can be difficult to listen to. Not only does it present difficult challenges to the ear, there is pain in it. There are also pinnacles of accomplishment, sweetness, sacredness and joy. And it expresses the triumph of Barack Obama’s journey to the Presidency.
“I know that black is beautiful and white is beautiful. But the most beautiful color of all is black and white together. We hate each other because we fear each other. We fear each other because we don't know each other. We don’t know each other because we won’t sit down at the table together.” (Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, quoted in Partners to History, by Donzaleigh Abernathy)
Many in our readership are loving appreciators of good poetry. I enjoy how we share our favorite poems in social media posts and emails. Published author, Jeffrey Wattles, in his new book, Living in Truth, Beauty and Goodness, (universalfamily.org) includes insightful poems of beauty to support the quest for truth and goodness. Once, I even heard Carol Shindler deliver an inspired International Conference plenary speech based on a Rumi poem. So I think many of us can understand the meaning in one of William Carlos Williams well known poems, Asphodel that Greeny Flower, when he wrote: “Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die every day for lack of what is found there.”*
In this love poem for his wife Flossie of 40 years, he wrote, “my heart rouses, thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men.”These excerpts I’ve quoted clearly show that the news we get from poetry is not the same as that reported in the daily media. He’s referring to something deeper, more nourishing, and life sustaining. In the reference to death, I detect an allusion to soul survival, even a hint about eternal life. If you “get the news,” you won’t actually die. You’ll do what we UB readers call, “graduate.” The poem ends, “Hear me out for I too am concerned and every man who wants to die at peace in his bed besides.”
The “news that … concerns many men” reminds those of us from Christian backgrounds of “the gospel” (Old English godspel) which both Christian and The Urantia Book (The UB) readers know to mean “the good news.” As Jesus taught his apostles, “Our teaching provides a religion wherein the believer is a son of God. That is the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 16:15; The UB, 142:3.8) But William Carlos Williams, a family doctor familiar with issues of life and death, didn’t seem to have an affinity with Christianity. He did believe in the redemptive power of “the imagination,” and I think he’d find agreeable passages to support his belief in The UB, especially one about the “spiritized creative imagination,” where “faith acts to release the superhuman activities of the divine spark … that lives within the mind of man.” (132:3.5).
Our local Marin County poets who are going to explore all the possible meanings of “the news,” for their next publication, may see it differently however. Those who are non-religious will see that the message we are to get from poems brings mental health, emotional intelligence, perhaps soul health, whereas I see a life of purpose that will transcend death.
Are poets still delivering news that is spiritually nourishing, leading their listeners to know truth? Yes, sometimes they are; perhaps fewer poets today follow such a path.
In what areas of society can poets find that their art form is still relevant? Where can poets do the work that will help the planet thrive? I myself, a working poet, often ask what exactly is our work? Engineers and carpenters build workplaces, houses, bridges, and highways. But what do poets build? When I started writing, my goal was to build a different kind of shelter.
I searched for a way to define new thoughts, to reflect them accurately and clearly, so they could be understood, to share thoughts and ideas that might be inhabited comfortably by another, lived in, a philosophy of life perhaps, to guide one in the construction of a character, to make better decisions about the purpose we wish to serve, or were born to achieve.
As Jesus said “to the Greek contractor and builder … ‘My friend, as you build the material structures of men, grow a spiritual character in the similitude of the divine spirit within your soul. Do not let your achievement as a temporal builder outrun your attainment as a spiritual son of the kingdom of heaven. While you build the mansions of time for another, neglect not to secure your title to the mansions of eternity for yourself.’” (Jesus in Corinth, 133:4.6)
I have chosen to make the art of poetry a feature of my spiritual outreach, a vehicle to pass along spiritual lessons I’ve learned from my own experience. Others among you might find it a viable way to share experiences of God’s presence and the reality of the spirit. In my readings, I use my own work mainly, but there are so many authors whose work could be draw on to serve and minister to peoples’ soul growth and deeper understanding.
Here’s one about the future life (the morontia career, The UB, 48:5.8): The Time Before Death(by Kabir, translation by Robert Bly):
“Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think ... and think ... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten -- that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
This next one is about an entity that accompanies us in life and the hereafter: “I Am Not I” (by Juan Ramon Jimenez)
“I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.”
There are so many more. Go out and listen to some of the news from poetry!
*Note: the original line breaks in Asphodel that Greeny Flower are discarded in these quotes.
One of my students, a Catholic teenager, is struggling to understand how his faith (his term) can fit into the modern scientific/secular world. He has learned about the “out of Africa” theory of the origins of modern humans and tries to reconcile this evolutionary history with church teachings about Adam and Eve. What did I think about the Nephilim? he asked; “I don’t believe there were giants in the earth.” After recovering from my astonishment that he even knew the story from Genesis 6, I chose to direct his focus to the more pertinent meaning of the name, Nephilim (ne–fee–leem). The Hebrew word actually translates more accurately to “fallen ones,” the sons of the gods who took wives from the daughters of men and who bore children to them.
As we know, the history of the Planetary Prince and his staff at the Dalamatian colony has nearly disappeared. To avoid referencing The Urantia Book (The UB), I found myself also telling him about American Indian lore preserved by the elders which refers to “the Prince’s staff” as the Star People, or Star Nations. Tradition teaches that they descended from a hole in the sky located in the Pleiades and came to guide the early red race to wisdom and give them the tools of civilization.
My wife says her father, a Presbyterian minister and Navy chaplin, never spoke about the Nephilim. It’s no wonder he didn’t. Our parent’s preferred Bible, the King James Version (KJV), doesn’t use the term. It is from the KJV that we’ve inherited our misleading translation “giants in the earth,” which may more accurately refer to the Anakims, descendants of Anak, definitely the giants of tradition who already inhabited Canaan when Moses led his people to “the promised land.”
The UB retells this part of the story as we first heard it in Genesis 6:1-4. “The postrebellion era on Urantia witnessed many unusual happenings. A great civilization—the culture of Dalamatia—was going to pieces. "The Nephilim (Nodites) were on earth in those days, and when these sons of the gods went in to the daughters of men and they bore to them, their children were the 'mighty men of old,' the 'men of renown.'" While hardly "sons of the gods," the staff and their early descendants were so regarded by the evolutionary mortals of those distant days; even their stature came to be magnified by tradition,”(77:2.3)the giants my student took such interest in.
I often return again to read in Paper 67, “the occurrence and consequences of the planetary rebellion … did markedly modify the course of social evolution and of spiritual development. The entire superphysical history of the planet was profoundly influenced by this devastating calamity.” (67:0.1)
Among the significant corrections The UB makes to our history is the reordering of the chronology, which places the bestowal of the Material Son and Daughter (Adam and Eve) long after the rebellion, 200,000 years ago, when the children of the Prince’s staff, the “Nephilim” originated. The Old Testament (OT) record leads us to believe that the Nephilim, the founders of the Nodite Race, followed after Adam and Eve, and therefore are the children of “the first parents” just as our planet has believed we all are. Because of the misconception, that missing section of our history from the Lucifer Rebellion to the Garden of Eden story is about 162,152 years. The UB also places the building of the first Tower of Babel in this same Nodite period which precedes the Garden story by several millennia.
“The well-nigh universal folk tale of the gods who came down to earth and there with the daughters of men begot an ancient race of heroes … became further confused with the race mixtures of the later appearing Adamites in the second garden.” (77:2.3)
My student, raised with the Catholic catechism, was taught, “There are no persons in the world now, and there never have been any, who are not the descendants of Adam and Eve, because the whole human race had but one origin.” This information that races of human beings existed before Adam and Eve would provide him with the philosophy to correlate the science he is learning with the religious teachings of his church and understand the meaning between the facts of science and the values of his faith. The UB chronology makes it possible for human evolution to coexist with the concept of a divine perfect pair created to care for God’s garden where a river named the Euphrates flows.
Many of us have noticed the OT reference that tells us Adam and Eve’s son Cain went to the land of Nod and found himself a wife, a mystery that has confounded Bible scholars for ages. In The UB we are told her name. “Cain married Remona, his distant cousin, and their first son, Enoch, became the head of the Elamite Nodites.” (76:2.9) Thus they continued the long era of racial mixing, the children of Adam, the Adamites, with that race descended from the Planetary Prince, the Nodites.
According to Genesis, a city was built in this land of Nod and named after Cain’s son, Enoch. Though unconfirmed in The UB, the story is retold in the Sumerian version of the myth of the first city, possibly Eridu founded by Enki, lord of the Earth. “The Nodite ancestry … blended with the Adamites to found the Sumerian peoples of historic times.” (77:4.6) Scholars have correlated Enoch’s name with equivalent Mesopotamian city names, Uruk, Unuk (Sumerian Unug), Ereck (which also may have been the first city), attempts to restore the history of the pre-Sumerians (Nodites) without the help of The UB.
It could be that the biblical record is confusing the city of Ereck, or Enoch, with the more important early city of the Nodites, Dilmun, built to take the place of an even more ancient Nodite capital, Dalamatia, which was submerged beneath the waters of the Persian Gulf. Dilmun is well known from the Sumerian tablets by historians of the Middle East. Unfortunately this history has not found its way into our general knowledge or the school curriculum. Sadly far as I know, none of it is taught in our schools leaving those like my Catholic student languishing in confusion.
I have a traditional spot on the Lake Erie beach where I visit my mother’s house near the sandy, south shore of Long Point, Ontario. I go walking there for worship and early morning meditations. This time, when I was there in August, I was reminded of the wonderful scene by the Sea of Galilee when the resurrected Jesus cooks fish and breaks bread for his apostles. Though he’d passed through suffering, humiliation, and death, the risen Jesus is filled with joy, friendliness, and good cheer.
“And then Jesus spoke, not as he had in Jerusalem, when he greeted them with "Peace be upon you," but in commonplace tones he addressed John Mark: "Well, John, I am glad to see you again and in carefree Galilee, where we can have a good visit. Stay with us, John, and have breakfast.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 192:1.4)
“John Mark brought seven good-sized fish, which the Master put on the fire, and when they were cooked, the lad served them to the ten. … Jesus bade John Mark sit down while he himself served the fish and the bread to the lad. And as they ate, Jesus visited with them and recounted their many experiences in Galilee and by this very lake.” (192:1.8) By the way, In The UB Jesus does not eat the food as is stated in one resurrection appearance recorded in the Bible.
I deliberately called this scene to my mind over the next few days of my visit to “the Point” and it cheered me mightily while I dealt with some difficult family issues surrounding inheritance, money, and real estate. Perhaps I was led to recall this picture so I would be strengthened.
I was again on the beach on the morning of Jesus’s birthday, singing songs of praise. “We are given tastes of the life and glory of the Master; today on this lake front where even the clouds seem to gather like angels singing songs of love, glorifying the Universal Father and the love of our guardian spirits.” (from my journal)
A theological question comes up when we contemplate this Galilee beach episode, one that is best preserved in the Bible’s Gospel of John, Chapter 21. Why do the apostles not recognize Jesus? The Gospel of Mark says “Jesus appeared in a different form,” (Mark, 16:12). Some Christians have an understanding of what Urantia Book students call the morontia body while others struggle with it, opting for what seems less complicated, Jesus is in his resurrected human body. The UB teaches that after three days following the crucifixion, “Sunday morning, April 9, A.D. 30, the resurrected morontia form and personality of Jesus of Nazareth came forth from the tomb.” (189:1.1)
On Catholic.com (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/why-dont-the-apostles-recognize-jesus-after-the-resurrection) I found an answer that coordinates well with The UB, “Jesus’ Resurrection was the kind of resurrection that all of the saved will have at the end of time: He received and we will receive our glorified bodies.” (The term “glorified form,” is also used in The UB, 189:4.10).
This same Lake Erie beach where I sang an old Sunday School hymn on Jesus’s birthday, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,” is the setting of several poems I have written in previous years. One is called “Worlds beyond the Lake Wind.” It captured an insight I had into the future morontia career.
“The indescribable sweet air of morning
wafts across the lake in a wind
that shakes new leaves
of cottonwood groves
to a rattle and flutter of music,
makes me wonder—so hard to discern
where sweetness really comes from,
difficult to pick out
what makes up
algae, riverbank, prairie grass, pine woods,
or to put it into words—I imagine
that it emanates, seems it must
flow from Him,
to sweep across treetops, waves, sand dunes,
aromatic essence of a distant universe
where harbors are prepared for us,
worlds possessing beauties
beyond those of this sphere.”
When my famous poet friend’s wife died recently, he was devastated, overwhelmed by grief. We saw how much she’d meant to him, and had been his whole life. Though I wasn’t close to her, her death reached into my heart too, on a deep symbolic level. All kinds of irrational fears seemed to rise up from the open casket there in the church, and cluster around us like ghosts. I felt that the world we knew was also disappearing. Did we poets have any relevance? Were my friend’s dazzling abilities in literary scholarship of any value anymore? What was left for us? What were my emotions telling me is lost? I offered him our love and consolation. I said, you may not believe in a soul, my friend, but “you have a big heart.”
He and his wife, both poets, were strongly affiliated with the old San Francisco Beatnik community, the alternative vision created by the counterculture back in the 50s and 60s that continued on as the hippie movement of the late 60s/70s. Our vision, for indeed I shared it, was of a country more at home with its diversity, representing and protecting the rights of all of its citizens. We hoped for a true freedom of religion based on the constitutional separation of church and state, even the freedom to not have a religion. My hope in those long ago days was that non-Christian schools of thought, Buddhist, Hindu, Daoist, Muslim, could claim their proper place in this America of expanded freedoms. Experience had taught me that some in the counterculture wanted to put an end to religion just as the French Revolution had attempted in the 18th Century, replacing it with a “Cult of Reason.” The culture wars have been marked by inter-generational, political, ideological, often hateful, and mostly hurtful spiritual conflict; I don’t wish them to continue but the divisions remain unresolved.
Because counterculture politics were left wing socialist, the Koch brothers early on mounted their opposition to groups such as ours; I don’t think many of us even knew who Charles and David Koch were back then. Influenced by Justice Lewis Powell’s pro-business memo of 1971, warning that “the American [free enterprise] economic system is under broad attack,” they devoted their fortunes to defeating the left wing liberal agenda. It is true that we hippies and beatniks wanted a redistribution of wealth, a fairer share of the economic pie for all. Even Jesus in The UB, “did frequently call attention to the injustice of the unequal distribution of wealth … He recognized the need for social justice and industrial fairness, but he offered no rules for their attainment.” (140:8.15)
A superior result would have been that the rich recognized the need. If there had only been more “compassionate conservatives,” to partner with wealthy liberals such as Ted Kennedy, to express empathy for the poor, act on behalf of the disenfranchised, the unempowered. But it didn’t happen. So through political means, we continually sought that government use legal powers to enforce compassion, the professed ideal of a “Christian” nation based on the teachings of Jesus who “unfailingly impressed upon his associates that they must "show forth love, compassion, and sympathy." (The UB, 137:7.13, Matthew 9:36) You can’t “legislate morality” they say, but shouldn’t all legislation have a moral purpose? Or, doesn’t it already?
In the 1980s, Chappell and I witnessed the death of this hope for social change. Not completely by coincidence we went to work for spiritual change instead, at the Family of God Foundation (FOG) led by Vern Grimsley. I had been immersed in a rock and roll milieu where there was no moral center. I was hungry for it. We were intimately acquainted with the flaws of the left-wing community, had witnessed the left’s embrace of the goals of self-gratification. “Self-maintenance builds society; unbridled self-gratification unfailingly destroys civilization (The UB, 68:2.11). The rise of secularism which displaced the Father’s kingdom in the world; “secularism has assumed a more militant attitude, assuming to take the place of the religion whose totalitarian bondage it onetime resisted. Twentieth-century secularism tends to affirm that man does not need God.” (195:8.5)
Glimmers of another sunrise of our political hopes did happen off and on, Carter, Obama, but they were followed by a lowering sky, sunset on our dreams.
So my wife and I, a California Democrat and a Canadian leftie, joined a group in which the majority were Reagan-era Republicans. We’d never imagined this to be our fate. Though we perceived the irony of the situation, we worked together willingly for a common purpose—a “spiritual renaissance,” based on the passage in The UB that Vern made famous. He fully embraced the slogan as his organization’s purpose, recruiting “these new teachers of Jesus’ religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men” (195:9.4).
To be honest, we were often uncomfortable with the politics and points of view of the group. Sometimes caught up in emotional discussions on our drive over to Berkeley for the weekly meetings, we’d ask ourselves, should we continue with this volunteer work, or depart gracefully? When Vern’s messages about WW III were announced in 1983, our skepticism grew. The opposition to him, even from old friends, increased. Within the year we left FOG, not with as much grace as hoped. Something, yes, another ideal had died there too. We did have this promise, “Jesus’ life is the everlasting comfort of all disappointed idealists (126:5.4).”
I am reliving this story in the new darkness of Donald Trump’s ascension in US politics, and the unresolved, festering, primordial, diabolic burn of the culture war. My friend’s wife’s death this year has come to represent yet another death of our ideals, after having been through several.
There is hope that we could be more like our master teacher and hold on to our faith. “Great things happened not only because people had faith in Jesus, but also because Jesus had so much faith in them (171:7.8),” a hard road, a steep hill to climb. Because of Jesus, that may be the calling, the best true choice open to us, faith in each other and ourselves. Problem is, we haven’t devoted much to that goal lately. We are way out of practice.
Watching thousands of refugees literally wash up on the shores of Greece in their efforts to escape the ravages of war, of course we are moved to pray for them. And I feel I hear their prayers. They are overwhelming in their anguish. “It is a fact of human experience that most persons, if sufficiently hard pressed, will pray in some way to some source of help.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 91:6.4) I imagined that God’s ears were drowned with the prayers, too many whose needs weren’t being met for all of them to be answered. How could God care for everyone’s welfare?
Most of us know within the recesses of a reasoning mind that God does not intervene directly when we pray for rescue or healing. The intervention takes place at the point where we ourselves choose new patterns, make decisions and arrangements, even unconsciously rehearse the answers needed in our minds.
“Prayer, unless in liaison with the will and actions of the personal spiritual forces and material supervisors of a realm, can have no direct effect upon one’s physical environment. While there is a very definite limit to the province of the petitions of prayer, such limits do not equally apply to the faith of those who pray.” (91:6.1)
We surely realize this when we instinctively ask friends and family to pray for someone’s welfare, also gladly reciprocating when we are asked. Experience with many seemingly unanswered prayers has taught us that they may “have no direct effect.” Here’s another stern reminder in The UB, “Prayer may not be employed to avoid the delays of time or to transcend the handicaps of space.” (146:2.9)
“How petty and selfish it really would be for a person to ask that the laws of the universe should be set aside for his sake.” (A Student’s Philosophy of Religion, William Kelly Wright, 276—a source for Paper 91).
“Expect nothing; ask for a miracle,” my wife advises (when she notices what I’m working on!)
Sections in The Urantia Book that focus more specifically on the question asked in my title are: 91:9, “Conditions of Effective Prayer”; Jesus’ teachings on the topic in 144:3.17, and in 146:2, where many more details are given in answer to Nathaniel’s confusion.
A factual, philosophic answer to consider: “Materialistic praying is destined to bring disappointment and disillusionment as advancing scientific discoveries demonstrate that man lives in a physical universe of law and order. The childhood of an individual or a race is characterized by primitive, selfish, and materialistic praying.”
But stay with it. As the quote continues, we’re also informed of the positive results. “And, to a certain extent, all such petitions are efficacious in that they unvaryingly lead to those efforts and exertions which are contributory to achieving the answers to such prayers. The real prayer of faith always contributes to the augmentation of the technique of living.” (91:4.4)
Later in the text, even stronger assurance is given, “Prayer, even as a purely human practice, a dialogue with one’s alter ego, constitutes a technique of the most efficient approach to the realization of those reserve powers of human nature which are stored and conserved in the unconscious realms of the human mind. Prayer is a sound psychologic practice, aside from its religious implications and its spiritual significance.” (91:6.4)
The Harvest of Materialism
In situations where the effectiveness of prayer has seemed hopeless to me, I’ve experienced an insightful perspective through the Buddhist concept of karma, the reaping of what’s been sown, that whatever we do has repercussions, “the repercussional synthesis of all time-space actions in the Deity presence of the Supreme.” (94:3.5) The karmic debt of the planet is so great that many innocents are trapped in its jaws. What is the debt owed? Comments in The UB illustrate well a situation our world has inherited following the obeisance we’ve paid to materialistic mechanism in our actions, or persistent refusals to act, over the ages. Not only individuals, but whole societies and nations. “You simply cannot establish the brotherhood of men while ignoring or denying the fatherhood of God. … Secular social and political optimism is an illusion. Without God, neither freedom and liberty, nor property and wealth will lead to peace. … this is only the beginning of the dire harvest of materialism and secularism; still more terrible destruction is yet to come.” (195:8.11-13)
Unfortunately, the contemporary talk about God, where the Caliphate and its enemies are concerned, comes through the distorting viewpoint of the media. A discourse centering around revenge and martyrdom seems to be all that we hear when we listen to the Middle East talking. We are left to contemplate a tragic void of spiritual insight, without a consideration of the ideals of brotherhood.
There is only a partial understanding or acceptance of God as father, a need for a greater insight into divine personality. If we could grasp God’s parenthood more fully, we would recognize the brotherhood in each other’s eyes. Let us seek out the voices of those who are striving towards these goals.
Now That We Know What Prayers Cannot Do … What Is it They Can Do?
I’ve been a little hard-headed philosophically here, hard on our hopes. But in spite of all the things prayer cannot do, we are also reminded about the power and effectiveness of faithful praying as Jesus taught in Gilboa:
“The earnest and longing repetition of any petition, when such a prayer is the sincere expression of a child of God and is uttered in faith, no matter how ill-advised or impossible of direct answer, never fails to expand the soul’s capacity for spiritual receptivity.” (144:4.2)
“Prayer does not move the divine heart to liberality of bestowal, but it does so often dig out larger and deeper channels wherein the divine bestowals may flow to the hearts and souls of those who thus remember to maintain unbroken communion with their Maker through sincere prayer and true worship.” (194:3.20)
Prayer is most effective in guiding and directing us, through worship and communion, to self-realize the kind of human we aspire to become, to attain our “divine destiny of perfection attainment.” (184:4.6) As a planet we could do it together. Jesus once advised Nathaniel to begin with spiritual problem-solving in preparing us to solve our material problems (148:5.4). “Genuine faith will remove mountains of material difficulty.” (144:2.6)
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