Billy Miles, the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) track runner and Olympic Gold medal winner, strove to restore to his people their original Native American spirituality. In a message to the young men of his race, he declared, “A Warrior is challenged to assume responsibility, practice humility, and display the power of giving, and then center his or her life around a core of spirituality,” a stark contrast to the bloodthirsty, war-like image we usually associate with the word, warrior.
The most well-known American Indian prayer, shared by several tribes, asks, “O’ Great Spirit … I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy -- myself.”
In our politically correct era, the archetype of male as warrior is attacked, derided as irrelevant to modern society, feared as a sexual menace, and we forget its deeper reference to self-mastery. In her book, You Are Happy: Circe poems, Margaret Atwood, writing at the height of the sexual political battles, ventured the opinion, “male as warrior … female as temptress. These two icons were counterfeit images … a route to much of the sickness that plagues the human psyche.”
Though Jesus never used the term warrior, he sometimes taught perhaps more like Billy Miles than a modern, politically-correct male, “And they who shall thus take the kingdom in spiritual power and by the persistent assaults of living faith will come from the north and the south and from the east and the west.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 166:3.5)
“Even the apostles were unable fully to comprehend his teaching as to the necessity for using spiritual force for the purpose of breaking through all material resistance and for surmounting every earthly obstacle which might chance to stand in the way of grasping the all-important spiritual values of the new life in the spirit as the liberated sons of God.” (166:3.8)
Although Jesus is thought of as a man of peace, he tried to inspire his “vacillating and indefinite” apostles and evangelists to be warriors for the kingdom and seize it by “spiritual” force. “If you desire to enter the kingdom, why do you not take it by spiritual assault even as the heathen take a city they lay siege to?” (155:1.3, pg. 1726)
Sometimes, though my father’s no longer alive, I would hear his voice saying, “but it’s all nonsense isn’t it?” As I must have done when I was a young boy, I deferred to him without objection, and would nod without answering. When I later turned to a growing faith in the spirit guidance I needed, my first pathways into faith were mystic entreaties, peaceful seeking. The words “take it by assault,” couldn’t have been further from my mind.
Later when I reintegrated with my Ojibwe family, ancestors, and their history, I came to terms with their essential warrior culture. I saw the reality of the good fight of faith, was even uplifted by a truer understanding of the admonitions of Jesus. He elevated the brave spirit of a warrior to a level of courage even more sublime, “courage was the very heart of his teachings. ‘Fear not’ was his watchword … The teachings of Jesus constitute a religion of valor, courage, and heroism (140:8.20).” I’ve felt the urgency, the need to seize the kingdom without hesitation, as revealed to us by our True Chief, our Creator Son. Hopefully I can act on it with more dedication.
“The courage of the flesh is the lowest form of bravery. Mind bravery is a higher type of human courage, but the highest and supreme is uncompromising loyalty to the enlightened convictions of profound spiritual realities. And such courage constitutes the heroism of the God-knowing man.” (143:1.7)
I met a woman warrior the day my daughter started middle school. She was the vice-principal and she made an opening speech of welcome to the parents. I was expecting sweet reassurances, promises made that our girl would find protection here to grow safely to maturity. But this woman, a champion of the children, was also a realist who knew and understood the mean streets. She knew first-hand about the peer group influences, the pressures of popular culture that destabilize families. As her speech described each year of a child’s life, the words made vivid the challenges that come with each step. Like an orator, she began each paragraph with the statement “they are still at risk,” as their age changed. “They are thirteen (or fourteen, then fifteen) and they are still at risk,” repeated each time, like a mantra.
That is what our faith is like. At each step of the way we are still at risk of stumbling, succumbing to doubt and darkness. “There is but one struggle for those who enter the kingdom, and that is to fight the good fight of faith. The believer has only one battle, and that is against doubt—unbelief.” (159:3.8)
During the 70’s, a small sect of young people, given the name the counterculture, proclaimed our society to be in a crisis. I think of them as an example of what historian Arnold Toynbee called the “creative minorities,” on which “the fate of a society always depends.” (fr. A Study of History) Pope Benedict in speaking about a cure for Europe’s crisis in 2008 saw that the work of such a group, as described by Toynbee, was needed in Europe to “reintroduce the religious dimension.” Many features of the impending doom evident in the 70’s, the environmental crash, aggravated racial conflicts, the loss of confidence were prescient of our current times. But the societal meltdown of my youth looks quaint in comparison to the present mood of crisis, intensified as it is now.
“Only the real religion of personal spiritual experience can function helpfully and creatively in the present crisis of civilization.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 99:2.1)
We retreated from our corrupt social organizations to plant ourselves as seeds for a better way of life, the one that would emerge when establishment structures finally collapsed. As a spiritually hungry truth seeker in a period before I found The Urantia Book, I was trying out a lot of recipes, getting my wisdom from rock and roll lyrics, astrology charts, psychic readings, New Age books, along with stimulative soupçons about “The Supreme” from the Upanishads. Many, then and now, have regarded the counterculture as fanatical. I knew wise spiritual teachings were needed, and that I needed an experience of personal transformation before I could even begin to help society progress and transform.
Necessary information that we need to survive and grow is brought by messengers who come into our lives at crucial points I believe. Is it providence, or guardian seraphim orchestrating such messenger events to enhance our potentials and progress?
“Seraphim are mind stimulators; they continually seek to promote circle-making decisions in human mind. They do this, not as does the Adjuster, operating from within and through the soul, but rather from the outside inward, working through the social, ethical, and moral environment of human beings.” (113:4.1)
I was once surprised at a certain unlikely figure who appeared in my life bearing an important message. I was tempted to call it providential, “But what man calls providence is all too often the product of his own imagination, the fortuitous juxtaposition of the circumstances of chance. There is, however, a real and emerging providence in the finite realm of universe existence, a true and actualizing correlation of the energies of space, the motions of time, the thoughts of intellect, the ideals of character, the desires of spiritual natures, and the purposive volitional acts of evolving personalities.” (118:10.7) Nevertheless I succumbed to the human temptation of believing providence had intervened on my behalf, as it had been doing throughout that whole year. “Every phase of personality experience on every successive level of universe progression swarms with clues to the discovery of alluring personal realities.” (12:9.1)
So it was on a day in the latter part of the burned-out 70’s that I went to a lecture by the famous astrologer and philosopher, Dane Rudhyar, who was then about 81 or 82 years old. I found him puzzlingly bored with astrology at this late point in his career, a thought that leapt to mind perhaps because my own disinterest with astrology had begun. He apparently preferred to be consulted as a spiritual, Jungian, or transpersonal, psychologist, and these were the topics that inspired eloquence from him. Mr. Rudhyar’s words encouraged us to aspire to “the central Solar will and purpose of the individual.” When I did read The Urantia Book later, I found echoes of such a higher way, teachings like “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)
Rudhyar spoke about the “gateway to higher consciousness,” how we must find a way to enter into it. My quest for enlightenment had been solitary and contemplative, but he connected this search for wisdom to a spiritual mission, work in the world, service to a great cause. He was selling a small booklet he’d written called “Seed Man.” I was so smitten with it that I bought several copies to give away to friends and relatives. Rudhyar’s ideas played well to this audience who remained, like myself, possessed by a mission to save civilization from imminent disaster. Here is how his booklet begins http://www.khaldea.com/rudhyar/seed.shtml:
“I feel we are at the threshold of a new age and that we need now, more than anything else, a new approach to human relationships and to social organization. We need a planetary approach, we need a synthetic approach … if you are to have a global world, the individual has to be so well established in his own identity that he can afford to cooperate with other people all over the world, independent of their culture, their race, their traditions, and so on.
“It is very important therefore, that one should learn how to establish oneself in one's own identity. We need a new type of human being… based no longer so much on conflict, but on a full acceptance of the total human being, body, mind, soul, feelings, everything. An esthetic approach versus an ethical approach, so that you can see the relationship in which everything stands inside of the whole, so you can look at the whole and become identified with the "wholeness" of that whole, rather than with any particular part.”
What a marvelous calling!
“Man can even now foretaste this providence in its eternity meanings.” (118:10.18)
Jesus famously used the metaphor of the seed in his teachings. “This gospel of the kingdom is a living truth. I have told you it is … like the grain of mustard seed; and now I declare that it is like the seed of the living being, which, from generation to generation, while it remains the same living seed, unfailingly unfolds itself in new manifestations and grows acceptably in channels of new adaptation to the peculiar needs and conditions of each successive generation.” (178:1.15)
Soon after receiving inspired words from Dane Rudhyar, I had a synchronous encounter with another messenger who shared some wisdom that helped her, “The real universe is friendly to every child of the eternal God.” (133:5.8) “Where did you find that?” I wondered, and she invited me to have a look at The Urantia Book. One thing led to another, a dream, a vow, a faith, a love, and within a couple of years we were happily married.
The torch, the urgent cause of the preservation of civilization, passed to a small band of Urantia Book readers, another “creative minority.” Over the years afterwards I studied The UB, itself a seed of wisdom, a brilliant synthesis of ideas derived from many, even “more than two thousand … sources,” (121:8.13) perhaps also a Melchizedek move to conserve our history and wisdom, conveniently put into one handy anthology, calling us to plant ourselves as seeds for the future.
“By faith in the fatherhood of God you may enter the kingdom of heaven, thus becoming the sons of God.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 142:1.3)
It is perhaps curious to talk about “becoming” at the same time as we learn we are already there. “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.” (142:3.8) Aspiring to be, or to become, a son or daughter of God is not an ego trip. It is an everyday human experience, one that Jesus encouraged us to have and cultivate, to become “born of the spirit” (John 3:5). I was once afraid to claim sonship for myself. It sounded too grand, too egotistical.
I was surprised to see in The Urantia Book (The UB), a new picture of Jesus who did not desire to command our submission, adoration and hero-worship. Instead he encouraged us to become “spiritual heroes.”
“I admonish you to give up the practice of always quoting the prophets of old and praising the heroes of Israel, and instead aspire to become living prophets of the Most High and spiritual heroes of the coming kingdom. To honor the God-knowing leaders of the past may indeed be worthwhile, but why, in so doing, should you sacrifice the supreme experience of human existence: finding God for yourselves and knowing him in your own souls?” (The UB, 155:6.7)
To feel at home in my adult self and seek maturity, I've wanted to align myself with truth, beauty and goodness, to make decisions that enhance and favor God’s presence in my life. It is not a special skill. Anyone who wishes can learn to experience it in worship and communion. A normal person, even one not overtly spiritual in their behavior, can seek and succeed in developing, feeling the presence of the Father, and over time, daily experience the love of God.
“Urantia mortals are entitled to regard themselves as being the sons of God because: 1. You are sons of spiritual promise, faith sons; you have accepted the status of sonship. You believe in the reality of your sonship, and thus does your sonship with God become eternally real.” (40:6.4-5)
“Mortal man must, through the recognition of truth, the appreciation of beauty, and the worship of goodness, evolve the recognition of a God of love.” (56:6.3) Thus, we establish our relationship as sons and daughters within the circle of that love (I think it is important to try and get beyond the unfortunate sexist language here).
Jesus was not smitten with himself, his status as God’s son. “Christ Jesus, who, being of the nature of God, thought it not strange to be equal to god but … made himself to be of little import.” (128:1.6) “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” This was remembered and recorded by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, 2:8, King James Bible.
“Holiness is not extraordinary; it is in you; it is in everybody,” said Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “for all those who are led by the spirit of God are the sons [and daughters] of God.” (Romans 8:14), and Pope Francis was heard to say recently, “Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us with open arms.”
“Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” John 14: 12-14.
Despite my thesis, “claiming to be a son or daughter of God is not an ego trip,” we should also acknowledge that many times in The Urantia Book movement, our brothers and sisters have fallen prey to a runaway ego phenomenon. We who’ve observed this have to remain vigilant, learn from their example, and be on guard against becoming over-awed, proud of our own attainments.
“In a religious genius, strong spiritual faith so many times leads directly to disastrous fanaticism, to exaggeration of the religious ego, but it was not so with Jesus. He was not unfavorably affected in his practical life by his extraordinary faith and spirit attainment because this spiritual exaltation was a wholly unconscious and spontaneous soul expression of his personal experience with God.” (196:0.6)
I remember in our early days with The UB (70’s-80’s) we were prone to speculate about who of us was a member of the reserve corps of destiny. It was thought that some of the early leaders, Christy, Vern, were members of this special group. Section 7 of Paper 114, The Reserve Corps of Destiny, has been one reason we’ve seen outbreaks of religious fanaticism among our fellows. But I don’t want to talk about being reservists so much in this blog. As far as the real work in front of us goes, it doesn’t matter. Certainly most of us won’t have any idea if we are a reservist or not; generally “the members of this unique group are wholly unconscious of their preparation.” (114:7.8) Nevertheless, I hope that I myself would gladly do anything to help serve our planetary administrators if I were so called.
“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world,” said spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson. Our responsibility is to keep it in proportion, “Jesus always preached temperance and taught consistency—proportionate adjustment of life problems.” (149:4.3)
Let us do this. At the same time, own our sonship and daughtership status. Claim it!
After our first storm this month, high sea winds blew the spent clouds eastward. It was a bright, sparkling day as I crossed over the top of Kirker Pass, at 968 feet elevation, and came upon a view of the Sierra Nevada range on the far horizon, clearly visible from a hundred miles away, snow covered peaks glorifying all creation. The edge of the next storm was held at bay by the sun in our valley all that day; then a black cloak of rain clouds, hung up and immovable at first over the East Bay hills, finally pushed in the next morning. In a grove of sycamores, whose yellow-brown leaves caught the sunlight so beautifully the day before, a huge flock of birds sang with wild abandon to each other; orchestrating their praise with the unheard songs of the angels, all joyously proclaiming glory.
“At the noontide birth 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.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 122:8.5)
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19:1
In so much discussion lately of our current politics, we perceive what to many of us looks like a power grab by the elite, the one percent seeking to consolidate their already nearly complete hold on the reins. Such bleak thoughts fill me with a terrible, abject loneliness, to see our planet so cut off from a universe where love rules. “The real universe is friendly to every child of the eternal God.” (The UB, 133:5.8)
“It is the purpose of this spirit to destroy the believer’s feeling of orphanhood. Jesus having been among men, all believers would experience a sense of loneliness had not the Spirit of Truth come to dwell in men's hearts.” (194:2.2)
I used to believe the Spirit of Truth ended our feelings of orphanhood on a personal level only, comforting us on a soul level but I had a new insight. This same Spirit of the Creator Son, this incredible gift of Michael, also annuls the feeling of planetary loneliness. I experience the truth of wisdom teachings that there are planetary supervisors watching over us, along with so many spiritual helpers, seeking every possible good for a suffering humanity, and this uplifts me, comforts me, gives me hope.
“When the worlds have become ripe for spiritualization, the bestowal Son arrives. These Sons always belong to the Magisterial or Avonal order except in that case, once in each local universe, when the Creator Son prepares for his terminal bestowal on some evolutionary world, as occurred when Michael of Nebadon appeared on Urantia to bestow himself upon your mortal races. Only one world in near ten million can enjoy such a gift; all other worlds are spiritually advanced by the bestowal of a Paradise Son of the Avonal order.” (52:5.2)
“Misfortune has not … been the sole lot of Urantia; this planet has also been the most fortunate in the local universe of Nebadon.” (76:5.7)
As we approach another celebration of “the annual festival of Mithras, December 25th,” (98:5.4) I am truly thankful, remembering the gift Michael gave to the world at the end of his bestowal life as Joshua Ben Joseph, Jesus of Nazareth. “I will not leave you desolate (180:4.1).” “My spirit shall go before you and I will be with you always (193:1.2).”
When we drive into San Francisco across the Bay Bridge, my wife and I begin to pray to the “parking angels” in the middle of the span. We ask them to be sure and save a parking space for us if possible. I used to think we were the only ones who did this. Such angels must have become popular and beloved for their usefulness in handling congested downtown situations because I’ve overheard other friends refer to their prayers to the parking angels. It’s uncanny how often these supplications (my wife prefers this term over prayers) seem to work! We make sure to offer our thanks afterwards.
The Urantia Book, (The UB) offers this definition: “In this paper the word "angel" is purposely limited to the designation of those seraphic and associated offspring of the Universe Mother Spirit who are so largely concerned with the operation of the plans of mortal survival.” (38:3.1)
We are taught that angels do encourage us to pray. “The impulse of worship largely originates in the spirit promptings of the higher mind adjutants, reinforced by the leadings of the Adjuster. But the urge to pray so often experienced by God-conscious mortals very often arises as the result of seraphic influence. The guarding seraphim is constantly manipulating the mortal environment for the purpose of augmenting the cosmic insight of the human ascender to the end that such a survival candidate may acquire enhanced realization of the presence of the indwelling Adjuster and thus be enabled to yield increased co-operation with the spiritual mission of the divine presence.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 113:4.4)
Okay … so in that very long last sentence of Paper 113 above, The UB strives to upstep our understanding, instructing us that we don’t properly pray to angels directly, although the seraphim do respond by guiding us into prayers to the indwelling divine presence. Their only manipulations of “the mortal environment” (the saving of parking spaces for instance) are made for our gain of more insight into the spirit guide’s presence. It seems those precious automobile billets we miraculously discover curbside are found by mere coincidence!
We know, if we think about it honestly, that we must admit there are many times the prayers for a parking space don’t work. It would be rather strange if they always did. That would be like having a magic lamp complete with genie to grant wishes. We do learn however that the angels “really know and truly understand you,” (9:0.3) and thus are truly sympathetic to our material needs. In my prayer life, I found that I’ve overlooked far too often the help of the seraphim. I try to remember to include them, especially when I need help on the earth plane, and I’m seeking a solution to a life problem (insights into the solution, of course!)
“Angels do not have material bodies, but they are definite and discrete beings; they are of spirit nature and origin. Though invisible to mortals, they perceive you as you are in the flesh without the aid of transformers or translators.” (38:2.1)
That’s an interesting statement when we read how physical controllers are needed to facilitate communication between Urantia mortals and universe beings.
“They intellectually understand the mode of mortal life, and they share all of man's non-sensuous emotions and sentiments. They appreciate and greatly enjoy your efforts in music, art, and real humor. They are fully cognizant of your moral struggles and spiritual difficulties. They love human beings, and only good can result from your efforts to understand and love them.” (Ibid)
Yes, we seek to know and love them. One morning, while on my way to join other volunteers working The Urantia Book booth at a “Body, Mind Expo,” in San Jose, I decided my guardian seraphim and I should hang out together on the drive down. It was a beautiful spring day to enjoy the scenery. We appreciated the oak-covered savannahs, the spring-green hills of Sunol Canyon, and our mutual affection. I could feel they were full of anticipation of the day ahead, feelings that were contagious. I got caught up in the excitement about the contacts we’d make with other truth seekers at the fair. The day turned out to be a delightful one of queries, conversations, friendly disagreements with Hindu Indians, physical therapists, psychic readers, and many stimulating meetings with new and different kinds of people.
We are going to be friends and companions with our guardian seraphim for a long time, perhaps not for eternity, but for “many an age.” It’s interesting to learn that, “your first assignment of the morontia life [will] be as assistants to the seraphim in the immediate work awaiting at the time you attain personality consciousness.” (113:7.3) What could that work be, one wonders?
“In the life of the flesh the intelligence of angels is not directly available to mortal men. They are not overlords or directors; they are simply guardians. The seraphim guard you; they do not seek directly to influence you; you must chart your own course, but these angels then act to make the best possible use of the course you have chosen. … They are the beings who are going to follow you for many an age, and they are thus receiving an introduction to their future work and personality association.” (113:5.4)
Incidentally, my wife disagrees with one part of my thesis. She says her requests for a parking space in San Francisco nearly always work.
“We no longer read the Book of Nature,” Thomas Berry, The Great Work, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/143389.The_Great_Work
I left the city and drove into the country. Just turned twenty-one, I had to get away from some major disappointments in my life, and was ready to start anew. I began looking to country people for the good and simple virtues that I deemed lost in the cacophony of wars, riots, and street demonstrations. My hope was that I’d find real wisdom in the practical lives of rural folk living close to the earth, far from the court intrigues of urban politics.
So I ended up in the beautiful hills of West Sonoma County, California, where I loved to go hiking. Sometimes my walks led to a pastoral retreat which became known in my mind alone as “Beethoven’s house,” a Germanic style cottage with a sloping peaked roof and an alpine kind of balcony, a house the composer Beethoven might have lived in. Emulating Schindler, his friend, I followed Ludwig out of the door as he went for his daily nature walk. Writing in a pocket sketchbook while he walked, he was inspired by the musical ideas he heard in bird songs, “Is that a yellow-hammer singing?” and murmuring brooks. Like the poets and more subjective Romantic philosophers of his time, Beethoven saw God visible in Nature, a god that earned his awe and worship, and brought us great symphonies from his pen.
I was introduced to Classical music by my father. Especially before we owned a TV he would often put on a record to listen to in the den. My sister and I imitated him, playing the 33 1/3 vinyl LPs he introduced us to, Rossini’s Overtures, Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman, Bizet's Carmen, and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, one that still plays in my head, remembering how we pulled clothes from a costume trunk to dress up and play out stories set to the music.
“Beauty sponsors art, music, and the meaningful rhythms of all human experience.” (The Urantia Book,The UB, 56:10.10)
Being a fisherman and hunter, a Canadian woodsman of sorts, Dad had also introduced me to a deep reverence for nature. No wonder that as a young man, I came to love the mountains and hills of Sonoma County where I communed with nature’s beauty. We’d come upon groves of oaks in the high valleys; great branches overhead like the vaulted ceilings of mankind’s cathedrals. I sat at the foot of her mountains and learned the fascinating geologic stories California could tell.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more … (Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Beethoven’s contemporary, George Gordon [Lord Byron]).
“Nature discloses nothing which would preclude the universe from being looked upon as the handiwork of the God of religion. God cannot be found through nature alone, but man having otherwise found him, the study of nature becomes wholly consistent with a higher and more spiritual interpretation of the universe.” (The UB, 101:2.9, pg. 1106; John Baillie, source)
The spirit of Beethoven and I climbed the trails near our village that led up and up to views of forested ridges furrowing into each other, stretching far away to the horizon where we read the unfolded pages of the earth from forest slope to barren rock walls. To study the controversies of time and evolution became my discipline. How long had it taken the world to effect a majestic revelation such as these mountains?
This description in The UB which predates James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis (1972) http://www.jameslovelock.org/page34.html, reveals more details. “The grand universe is not only a material creation of physical grandeur, spirit sublimity, and intellectual magnitude, it is also a magnificent and responsive living organism. There is actual life pulsating throughout the mechanism of the vast creation of the vibrant cosmos. The physical reality of the universes is symbolic of the perceivable reality of the Almighty Supreme; and this material and living organism is penetrated by intelligence circuits, even as the human body is traversed by a network of neural sensation paths. This physical universe is permeated by energy lanes which effectively activate material creation, even as the human body is nourished and energized by the circulatory distribution of the assimilable energy products of nourishment.” (116:7.1)
My retreat to the woods happened during the counterculture era, the “hippie” movement. We were living out a reiteration of the Romantic era, a short period of barely 25 years depending on how you’re counting, from 1798 (Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s joint publication of “Lyrical Ballads” to 1824, Byron’s death). Like the Romantic poets and musicians who saw the divine presence in nature, we 60’s children rebelled against the same modern industrialism that was conquering England in their day, a triumph of rationalism over idealism, a valuation of mechanistic materialism over the handiwork of Mother Nature. It was the beginning of an age of alienation from the natural world. Our counterculture revolution was equally shortlived it seemed. But perhaps the work that remains of cleaning up our polluted earth will one day be carried to completion.
Jesus earned the admiration of his followers, especially Thomas’s, for his superbly balanced character. He was a “lover of nature but was free from all tendency to revere nature.” (139:8.7)
“The Master by precept and example taught the value of worshiping the Creator in the midst of the natural surroundings of creation. He preferred to commune with the heavenly Father amidst the trees and among the lowly creatures of the natural world. He rejoiced to contemplate the Father through the inspiring spectacle of the starry realms of the Creator Sons.” (167:6.5)
“I saw a crowd stand talking, I just came up in time. They was teaching the lawyers and the doctors that a man ain’t nothing but his mind. Won’t somebody tell me, answer if you can. Oh, won’t somebody tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man?” (Blind Willie Johnson)
Glaucon, in the last book of Plato’s The Republic (608d), is taken aback by Socrates’ question, “Haven't you realized that our soul is immortal and never destroyed?”
There was an officer among the retinue of Simha who came to the Buddha and said: “It is said, O Lord, that the wandering ascetic, Gotama, denies the existence of the soul. Do they who say so speak the truth, or do they bear false witness against the Blessed One?”
And the Buddha said: "There is a way in which those who say so are speaking truly of me; on the other hand, there is a way in which those who say so do not speak truly of me. The Tathagata teaches that there is no self. He who says that the soul is his self and that the self is the thinker of our thoughts and the actor of our deeds, teaches a wrong doctrine which leads to confusion and darkness. On the other hand, the Tathagata teaches that there is mind. He who understands by soul mind, and says that mind exists, teaches the truth which leads to clearness and enlightenment. … I say to thee, thy mind is spiritual …” http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/index.htm
The fact that Buddha taught the use of the mind to achieve enlightenment is one reason Jesus described Buddha to Ganid as having taken his followers right up to the door of spirit, “to the entrance to the haven of mortal salvation,” and then leaving them there (The Urantia Book, The UB, 132:7.4). This does not mean the truth seeker cannot open the door on his or her own. As Buddha reputedly taught at the end of his life, “be lamps unto yourselves.”
Neither Gautama nor Blind Willie Johnson were alone in finding it difficult to sort out the different endowments of soul, mind and spirit.
Influenced by the rise of atheism in our day, many no longer believe in the existence of a soul. Some are even unclear about the mind, still believing that the mind resides in the tissues of the brain. The midwayers call the “evolving soul,” the mid-mind, an echo of Buddha’s teaching.
“The midway creatures have long denominated this evolving soul of man the mid-mind in contradistinction to the lower or material mind and the higher or cosmic mind. This mid-mind is really a morontia phenomenon since it exists in the realm between the material and the spiritual. The potential of such a morontia evolution is inherent in the two universal urges of mind: the impulse of the finite mind of the creature to know God and attain the divinity of the Creator, and the impulse of the infinite mind of the Creator to know man and attain the experience of the creature.” (The UB, 111:2.8)
The UB seeks to clarify the distinction between mind and soul. The two components are given different care, seraphim being teachers of the mind in 113:4.2 “… the seraphim is the teacher of man’s evolving nature—in this life the mortal mind, in the next the morontia soul.”
The adjuster is a soul teacher, trying to lead the soul. “Says the Lord: 'I dwell within their own souls as a lamp of wisdom.” (131:4.3, Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 10)
“Provision having been made for the growth of the immortal self, the soul, it remains for man himself to will the creation or to inhibit the creation of this surviving and eternal self which is his for the choosing.” (5:6.8)
“… the gradual and certain building up in the material and mortal mind of a spiritual and potentially immortal counterpart of character and identity … constitutes one of the most perplexing mysteries of the universes—the evolution of an immortal soul within the mind of a mortal and material creature.” (13:1.22)
“Moral self-consciousness is true human self-realization and constitutes the foundation of the human soul, and the soul is that part of man which represents the potential survival value of human experience … The soul of man cannot exist apart from moral thinking and spiritual activity. A stagnant soul is a dying soul. But the soul of man is distinct from the divine spirit which dwells within the mind.” (133:6.5)
I have advocated the conscious practice of an inner life for many years. How’s that workin’ for you? asks the dude in the street. Well … what can I say? I even ask myself, “What do I get from it?” It doesn’t sound like a pleasant undertaking; more like undergoing psychoanalysis. However, some kind of self-examination should be expected to happen in the spiritual life, I believe.
In pursuing my noble cause in the midst of this planet’s violence and hate-filled conflicts, I am doing all I can to keep the path open to seeking the enlightenment I’ve sought all my life. My updated project lately is to attain a more permanent stage of samadhi, as it’s known in the East, instead of experiencing so many fluctuations, elations and depressions, ups and downs, advances and retreats. I am sad to see how the path to enlightenment has been discredited, come under fire, and become obstructed for the younger generations. They, along with much of the rest of the world, have been swindled out of their spiritual treasure. That gold is worth the effort to recover.
Chappell and I like to sing Stevie’s song, “He’s the only free psychiatrist that’s known throughout the land and you can talk it over with him, he’s always around. When you feel your life’s too hard, just go have a talk with God.” (Stevie Wonder)
During the 70s, when I was a yoga practitioner, I tried to have quiet moments of contemplation after I went through my routine of postures. But I found it hard to keep my brain quiet. I had so many questions. Is there a Supreme Being? Lord, are you there? Is there a soul and a world beyond?
What did I discover? I experienced the presence of an overwhelming mystery. As a fellow meditator once wrote, my “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup ... they slip away across the universe.” (Across the Universe, John Lennon; note: author Thomas Berry once commented, with a dark humor about the decline of Christianity in Europe, that the traditional faith had been replaced by the wisdom of John Lennon lyrics.)
God was elusive, hard to define. I had matured enough that I’d gotten past thinking of Him as an old man with a beard seated on a throne in the sky, but I was swimming in a pool where I wondered if it was a reflection of my own face. John sang, “pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind.” (Ibid)
I think I was knocking at the door, but not opening it very wide, just peeking in. Now I understand the inner life as an on-going process, a life-long project, with ups and downs in communication. Sometimes after we’ve gotten started, been seriously disappointed, we slam the door on it. Then we come back again, turning the knob as quiet as we can so as not to disturb.
Is there pain in the inner life? Yes. I encountered a lot of places inside where I needed healing. Initially, I was reluctant to invite God into this process because of fears that he’d think me unworthy of his time, doubts that I could actually communicate with the Great Mystery (Ojibwe/Lakota) called God. In spite of all that, I was in too much pain, so I made a lot of starts at fixing the hurt. Slow going at first; I couldn’t tell if I’d accomplished real contact, or achieved any result. Now, looking back, my advice to someone based on my experience would be, don’t be so certain you can consciously know what’s really going on.
“The human individual undergoes this growth; he does not do it.... The individual undergoes this growth as sunshine, air and earth undergo transformation into a scarlet poppy. [Humans] can do more than the poppy. A man can seek out the conditions that are required for this growth …” (Regina Westcott-Weiman with Henry Weiman, and The UB, 100:3.7)
My Unity church pastor sets aside time in their services for guided meditations. These experiences brought me to the realization that inviting the love of God into my heart to heal really worked. The church guides its congregation every week into having an inner life.
After I began reading The Urantia Book in 1978, I shouted “huzzah” to find a book that harmonized science with religion and philosophy, but eventually its encouragement to share the inner life with God is what impressed me the most (The UB, 111:5.1). I began building on old attempts from my yoga days, more convinced that results could be achieved. My effort became more concentrated. Things began to happen spontaneously. I embarked on a more definite direction in the pursuit of goals, finished my education, got a better-paying job, went for a master’s degree. My wife and I started a family.
I discovered the validity of those ideas of growth and progress that are constantly reiterated in The UB. I finally shed the old scientific bias, a “truth” I once held, that we live in a random universe. Yes, in retrospect I learned to have more faith in progress, accepted it was inherent to the universe. As The UB teaches, “Can you not advance in your concept of God’s dealing with man to that level where you recognize that the watchword of the universe is progress?” (4:1.2)
The unconscious discoveries in the early years of my inner life project led to so many achievements. How do I currently describe what I gain from practicing it? The answer has evolved over the years: clarity, taking responsibility for what I chose to do in life, for my own decisions. I don’t put the results of my “career” in that box of what others did to me. No more blame games. I wonder why I ever put my trust in the effectiveness of those.
Truly I find that changing your behaviors, the outer life manifestations of an inner life search, continues to be the most difficult part. Such outer life work, service, must accompany and complete what we’ve learned through our spiritual insights. Here is where we need the most patience and compassion with ourselves. Do acts of self-forgiveness. Allow the inner life to work its way up to the surface, manifest in our lives where actions and decisions are made, where we show forth the fruits of our labors. I think we’ll continually be surprised by what happens.
It is common these days to think we must solve our material problems first, supposedly the more practical approach. Then, when we have the spare time, we can put our spiritual lives in order, take up a search for spiritual values, find God. Jesus in The Urantia Book (The UB) reversed this order of priorities. In a private conference with Nathaniel, instead of our modern term psychological problems, he called them spiritual problems. “Nathaniel, it is our mission to help men solve their spiritual problems and in this way to quicken their minds so that they may be the better prepared and inspired to go about solving their manifold material problems.” (The UB, 148:5.4) He set out to train his followers to share the inner life in communion with the Father, to have a healthy psychology; “he was concerned only with the principles of man’s inner and personal spiritual life.” (140:8.9) He was helping them build a foundation for personal spiritual experience, true religion the first priority. True religion requires good psychology.
One of the great inspirations of the Pope’s address to the U.S. Congress was his choice of “four individuals, and four dreams,” from among the “great Americans” who “were able by hard work and self-sacrifice … to build a better future.” One was Thomas Merton. For him, the contemplative life was fundamental, the most real, what the UB prefers to call “the inner life.” (111:4) As Pope Francis said, Merton was “a man of prayer who … opened new horizons for souls.” This Cistercian monk taught “the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.” http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript/
Before Jesus began his public ministry, he ministered to many individuals during the tour of the Mediterranean world with Ganid and Gonod. To Fortune, the young man he met in the hills of Crete, he gave a lesson in self-mastery. “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) Jesus pointed out to him that “your potential of real achievement is the spirit that lives within you.”
Apostolic Therapy—Part of the Training
He gave the apostles equivalent teachings. In Caesarae-Philippi, “They learned that … True religion is designed to lessen the strain of existence; it releases faith and courage for daily living and unselfish serving. Faith promotes spiritual vitality and righteous fruitfulness.” (155:3.7) His training included the acquiring of psychological strength, where possible. They still continued to suffer various emotional maladies such as Thomas with his recurring depressions.
All the apostles experienced many fears and anxieties during the harrowing flight through Northern Galilee from Sidon to Phoenicia, pursued by the Sanhedrin who had authorization from Herod to arrest Jesus. The Master was not gentle with them on this occasion but boldly critiqued their childish reactions to the rage of “the heathen.” They were “guilty of too much chronic yearning … regretting the past, whining over the present.” It was a moment of tough love. (155:1.3)
Following an unproductive two week period at Chorazin, “a baptism of adversity,” the apostles were taking stock of their souls; “they were well-nigh depressed.” He taught the apostles another goal of the work, to achieve transformation of their emotions through prayer to the Father. “The Master said … all of you should pray the Father to transform your emotions of mind and body into the higher loyalties of mind and the more satisfying experiences of the spirit." (155:5.15)
Sometimes spiritual problem solving is as simple as taking a vacation. “Jesus seated them about him while he said: "My brethren, you must all learn the value of rest and the efficacy of relaxation. You must realize that the best method of solving some entangled problems is to forsake them for a time. Then when you go back fresh from your rest or worship, you are able to attack your troubles with a clearer head and a steadier hand, not to mention a more resolute heart. Again, many times your problem is found to have shrunk in size and proportions while you have been resting your mind and body." (143:3.3)
“If Jesus were on earth today, living his life in the flesh, he would be a great disappointment to the majority of good men and women for the simple reason that he would not take sides in present-day political, social, or economic disputes. He would remain grandly aloof while teaching you how to perfect your inner spiritual life so as to render you many-fold more competent to attack the solution of your purely human problems.” (140:8.17)
I think Jesus well understood the courage and strength required to leave the religions of authority, to seek the joy found in personal religious experiences. The UB comments, “Prayer induces the human ego to look both ways for help: for material aid to the subconscious reservoir of mortal experience, for inspiration and guidance to the superconscious borders of the contact of the material with the spiritual, with the Mystery Monitor.” (91:3.5)
I’ve discussed before how being perfect is to become “whole-hearted.” The motivation, when one responds to the religious impulse, is also called all-encompassing. One becomes apostolic, able to serve, “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.” (100:6.4)
Do We Have the Capacity for “New Horizons,” Further Spiritual Growth?
“Worshipful problem solving,” is one of the “habits which favor spiritual growth.” (100:1.8)
There are many sub-sets to the idea of doing the will of God. I have thought that praying to increase our capacity for spiritual experience is a sub-set of the larger doing of the will of God. “The experience of God has no limits save those of the creature's comprehension capacity, and this very experience [of God] is itself capacity enlarging,” (117:6.9)
Jesus taught that “prayer is a factor in the enlargement of one’s capacity to receive the presence of the divine spirit,” (146:2.14) and further “taught his followers that, when they had made their prayers to the Father, they should remain for a time in silent receptivity to afford the indwelling spirit the better opportunity to speak to the listening soul.” (146:2.17)
We wrestle with guilt that pulls us down, lowers our self-esteem to the point where we don’t feel we deserve God’s mercy. But we do. If the sparrows deserve it, even more so do we. (150:4.3) Jesus’s astonishing revelation to the world was that we were already forgiven and did not require his or anyone’s sacrifice. The rocks in our road, the stones in our pathway are removed upon our acceptance of this gift of mercy. But many of us may have unhealed emotional scars from childhood, a persistence of childish traits as a result, negative, even violent ones, such as jealousies, resentment, vengefulness, injured pride, the urge to retaliate when experiencing a perceived injustice. All can be cured by loving that part of us as the Father would, the part still in pain from old hurts. We love ourselves compassionately by inviting God’s love to come into our hearts and heal by means of prayer and worshipful communion. It can then flow through us out into the world, becoming an act of service to all.
What other obstacles might there be to experiencing the presence of God? When prayer doesn't work, the person dealing with mental illnesses in any form feels like a failure or blames him or herself for not having enough faith. Sometimes for me it’s just plain forgetfulness, forgetting to pray for guidance, which easily happens if I’m in a period of low self-esteem, embarrassment, unable to face others, not feeling fed by friendships, or the support of community. When I do remember to make a short prayer to my spirit guide to help with “the morbid recognition” of my limitations, things go better and I can overcome the regressive tendencies of the lower self, the “animal nature,” as it’s referred to in The UB (34:6.9).
Jesus told the crowd at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, “If you could all be healed of your physical afflictions, you would indeed marvel, but it is even greater that you should be cleansed of all spiritual disease and find yourselves healed of all moral infirmities.” (147:3.3)
My rural family members had a country maxim, “God helps those who help themselves,” so I’ve smiled to myself when I read one of the men at the pool of Bethesda, “afflicted by the infirmities of his mind … [who] had waited all these years for somebody to help him … was such a victim of the feeling of his own helplessness that he had never once entertained the idea of helping himself which proved to be the one thing he had to do in order to effect recovery—take up his bed and walk.” (147:3.5) Jesus words, the gospel, awakened his will and courage just as it had done with Fortune, the young man in the hills of Crete.
“Personal, spiritual religious experience is an efficient solvent for most mortal difficulties; it is an effective sorter, evaluator, and adjuster of all human problems. Religion does not remove or destroy human troubles, but it does dissolve, absorb, illuminate, and transcend them. True religion unifies the personality for effective adjustment to all mortal requirements.” (196:3.1)
A lot of talk about previous incarnations has gone around the New Age religious communities in California, talk that demonstrates how quickly we’re attracted to the belief we are “old souls,” our bodies, new vehicles for souls that existed before. Wordsworth bestowed a poetic dignity on the idea, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting, the soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath elsewhere had its setting, and cometh from afar, (Ode: Intimations of Immortality).”
Many who believe they’ve experienced memories of previous existences spend hard-earned dollars on past life regressions, a method recently minted for the purpose of exploring the details of the experiences, and getting in touch with our true, more authentic selves.
What are the risks, the down sides of this belief? On one hand a past life identity could give a person a false sense of self-importance, if you believed you’d been an Egyptian Pharaoh named Ramses, for example. On the other hand, it could fulfill a strong need for a sense of meaning and significance that day-to-day existence lacks. Is it merely illusory? Rationally considered, people may be suffering delusions, but I’ve seen truly beautiful creative inspirations come out of such ideas, for example, Chaka Khan’s composition (with Rufus), The Egyptian Song, is about her reincarnation fantasy and it is deeply moving music.
The Urantia Book (The UB) seeks to clarify that what “arrives” to indwell our minds is the divine spark, the Spirit of the Father, also known as the Thought Adjuster, the Mystery Monitor. “The soul of man is distinct from the divine spirit which dwells within the mind.” (The UB, 133:6.5)
“… the gradual and certain building up in the material and mortal mind of a spiritual and potentially immortal counterpart of character and identity … constitutes one of the most perplexing mysteries of the universes—the evolution of an immortal soul within the mind of a mortal and material creature.” (13:1.22)
Though naturally a skeptic, I did not completely discount the idea of past lives. I’d had my own experience of unusual memories, vivid sensations, inexplicable mysteries that might have been plausibly explained by past life memories. A vivid and strong impression of myself as a horseman living in desert-like country under a winter sky near the Caspian Sea was part of what inspired me to learn more about the ancient culture of people from the steppes, known as the Aryans in our history. I bought records of classical Persian music, studied the region’s archeology, learned the history of the horse cultures of five thousand years ago, and presented a topical study of their “Journey to India,” to our UB study group.
My “past life” interest took a more scientific turn. I joined National Geographic’s Genographic project to map the human genome. Upon receipt of payment, I was sent the test kit, two cheek swabs from which samples of my DNA would be obtained. The results came back confirming that I carried genetic markers of a heritage from the Middle Eastern regions, the Fertile Crescent, of about 60,000 years ago. Was it merely an ironic coincidence, or had I discovered something in my past life meditations that had an authentic genetic basis?
The idea of previous incarnations may be a way we choose to connect with our ancient ancestry whether it’s literally in our blood, or a part of what Carl Jung called the collective unconscious. Jung put forward a technique of “active imagination,” in his therapy practice. It was a way for patients to invite the unconscious into the everyday mind and thus explore more depths in their experience.
A valid criticism of the New Age concept of past lives and reincarnation is that it is overly deterministic. The old souls come with agendas. People see their lives as consequences of previous lives of uncompleted or “bad” karma, a perspective that tends to leave no room for the expression of their own free will choices. Many believe their duty in this life is to work out the “karma” of past lives. To me, such karmic tasks displace their own dreams. In becoming a passive receptacle for “old souls,” we overlook our own contributions to growth in the spirit.
The UB points out how old the idea is. “There was, throughout all these regions, a lingering belief in reincarnation. 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)
Our study group once moderated classes in religion and philosophy for the Unity Church based on The UB. New Age ideas came up frequently. Inevitably we were embroiled in disagreements. To help, I suggested it would not serve us to take an absolute position on the issue, at least not on reincarnation from a previous Earth life. One detail from The UB was worthy of mention, “Supreme Adjusters, [are] those Monitors that have served in the adventure of time on the evolutionary worlds, but whose human partners for some reason declined eternal survival … A supreme Adjuster, though no more divine than a virgin Monitor, has had more experience, can do things in the human mind which a less experienced Adjuster could not do.” (107:2.4)
Honestly, my hope was to get to the deeper motivations behind the turn to beliefs in reincarnation. People drawn to the notion are in search of ego strength, an increased sense of personal worth and self-esteem, a feeling of belonging. Ideally, it could lead to a discovery for themselves, within themselves, of that which they hold to be of higher value, their spiritual connection.
Modern movements come and go and inevitably New Age thought diminished in popularity. I came to accept that the topic of past lives was a preoccupation of the once-dominant counterculture, a subject more fashionable than legitimate as a field of investigation and inquiry. As I’d done with the genome project, I sought more scientific explanations of the question that still remained: how do we sometimes discover an innate wisdom that seems to surpass what it is possible to learn in such small lives limited to narrow periods of time?
Race memory may be part of a commonly accessed mind such as Jung tried to describe with his concept of the collective unconscious. The Theosophical movement contributed a similar idea, calling it the akashic record. Philosopher of science, Ervin Laszlo, called it the akashic field. Collective human memory may be genetically encoded in the same way that happens during the process of evolution in migrating birds and animals. They have an innate, “instinctive” sense of the best direction to take to reach their winter feeding grounds.
Our local fringe spiritual movements have concentrated on mind memory as the repository of past life experiences. Mind is our necessary pathway to access the developing soul, “Mind is the human soil from which the spirit Monitor must evolve the morontia soul with the co-operation of the indwelt personality” (111:1.1), and we should not lose sight of the long tradition of soul as our connection to God, rather than to our past human history. More intriguing than past lives is the future that awaits us. In The Urantia Book, the soul becomes the vehicle to take us on a heroic journey into our future. “During the mortal life in the flesh the soul is of embryonic estate; it is born (resurrected) in the morontia life and experiences growth through the successive morontia worlds.” (66:4.9)
*Thanks to Jorma Kaukonen (of Jefferson Airplane) for his beautiful composition, “Embryonic Journey,” recorded on Surrealistic Pillow, 1967.
For David Kantor’s study group on this topic, see: http://urantia-book.org/archive/studyaid/reincarn.htm
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