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The Urantia Book (sometimes called the Urantia Papers or The Fifth Epochal Revelation) is a spiritual and philosophical book that originated in Chicago sometime between 1924 and 1955. The authorship remains a matter of speculation.
The authors introduce the word "Urantia" as the name of the planet Earth and state that their intent is to "present enlarged concepts and advanced truth.
"The book aims to unite religion, science and philosophy, and its enormous amount of material about science is unique among literature claimed to be presented by celestial beings. Among other topics, the book discusses the origin and meaning of life, mankind's place in the universe, the relationship between God and people, and the life of Jesus. It has been described as "a rich and complex moral narrative, equal parts Tolkien and St. Paul."
The Urantia Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit group, first published The Urantia Book in 1955. In 2001, a jury found that the English book's copyright was no longer valid after 1983. The English text became a public domain work in the United States, and in 2006 the international copyright expired.
William S. Sadler
The exact circumstances of the origin of The Urantia Book are unknown. The book and its publishers do not name a human author. Instead, it is written as if directly presented by numerous celestial beings appointed to the task of providing an "epochal" religious revelation. As early as 1911, William S. Sadler and his wife Lena Sadler, physicians in Chicago and well known in the community, are said to have been approached by a neighbor who was concerned because she would occasionally find her husband in a deep sleep and breathing abnormally. She reported that she was unable to wake him at these times. The Sadlers came to observe the episodes, and over time, the individual produced verbal communications that claimed to be from "student visitor" spiritual beings. This changed sometime in early 1925 with a "voluminous handwritten document," which from then on became the regular method of purported communication. The individual was never identified publicly but has been described as "a hard-boiled business man, member of the board of trade and stock exchange."
The Sadlers were both respected physicians, and William Sadler was a debunker of paranormal claims, who is portrayed as not believing in the supernatural. In 1929, he published a book called The Mind at Mischief, in which he explained the fraudulent methods of mediums and how self-deception leads to psychic claims. He wrote in an appendix that there were two cases that he had not explained to his satisfaction:
The other exception has to do with a rather peculiar case of psychic phenomena, one which I find myself unable to classify. ... I was brought in contact with it, in the summer of 1911, and I have had it under my observation more or less ever since, having been present at probably 250 of the night sessions, many of which have been attended by a stenographer who made voluminous notes. A thorough study of this case has convinced me that it is not one of ordinary trance. ... This man is utterly unconscious, wholly oblivious to what takes place, and, unless told about it subsequently, never knows that he has been used as a sort of clearing house for the coming and going of alleged extra-planetary personalities. ... Psychoanalysis, hypnotism, intensive comparison, fail to show that the written or spoken messages of this individual have origin in his own mind. Much of the material secured through this subject is quite contrary to his habits of thought, to the way in which he has been taught, and to his entire philosophy. In fact, of much that we have secured, we have failed to find anything of its nature in existence.
In 1923, a group of Sadler's friends, former patients, and colleagues began meeting for Sunday philosophical and religious discussions, but became interested in the strange communications when Sadler mentioned the case at their fourth meeting and read samples at their request. Shortly afterwards, a communication reportedly was received that this group would be allowed to devise questions and that answers would be given by celestial beings through the "contact personality."
Sadler presented this development to the group, and they generated hundreds of questions without full seriousness, but their claim is that it resulted in the appearance of answers in the form of fully written papers. They became more impressed with the quality of the answers and continued to ask questions, until all papers now collected together as The Urantia Book were obtained. The group was known as the Forum, and was formalized as a closed group of 30 members in 1925 who pledged not to discuss the material with others. Over time, some participants left and others joined, leading to a total membership of 486 people over the years from diverse backgrounds and a mix of interest levels.
A smaller group of five individuals called the Contact Commission, including the Sadlers, was responsible for gathering the questions from the Forum, acting as the custodians of the handwritten manuscripts that were presented as answers, and arranging for proofreading and typing of the material. Bill Sadler, Jr. is noted to have composed the table of contents that is published with the book.
The Sadlers and others involved, now all deceased, claimed that the papers of the book were physically materialized from 1925 until 1935 in a way that was not understood even by them, with the first two parts being completed in 1934 and the third and fourth in 1935. The last Forum gathering was in 1942.
After the last of Part IV was obtained in 1935, an additional period of time supposedly took place where requests for clarifications resulted in revisions. Sadler and his son William (Bill) Sadler, Jr. at one point wrote a draft introduction and were told that they could not add their introduction. The Foreword was then "received."
The communications purportedly continued for another two decades while members of the Forum studied the book in depth, and according to Sadler and others, permission to publish it was given to them in 1955. The Urantia Foundation was formed in 1950 as a tax-exempt educational society in Illinois, and through privately raised funds, the book was published on October 12, 1955.
Only the members of the Contact Commission witnessed the activities of the "sleeping subject", and only they knew his identity. The individual is claimed to have been kept anonymous in order to prevent undesirable future veneration or reverence for him. Martin Gardner states that an explanation concerning the origin of the book more plausible than celestial beings is that the Contact Commission, particularly William Sadler, was responsible. Gardner's conclusion is that a man named Wilfred Kellogg was the sleeping subject and authored the work from his subconscious mind, with William Sadler subsequently editing and authoring parts. Brad Gooch believes Sadler wrote the book, possibly with help from others on the Contact Commission.
A statistical analysis using the Mosteller and Wallace methods of stylometry indicates at least nine authors were involved, and by comparatively analyzing the book against The Mind at Mischief, does not indicate authorship or extensive editing by Sadler, without ruling out the possibility of limited edits.
In 1991, after having compiled an index of The Urantia Book and distributed free copies via computer disk and printouts, Kristen Maaherra was sued by the Urantia Foundation for violating their copyright on the book. In 1995, Maaherra won a Summary Judgment declaring the Urantia Foundation's copyright renewal invalid. Upon appeal, the judgment was reversed and awarded to the Urantia Foundation.
Four years later, in 1999, Harry McMullan III and the Michael Foundation published a book, Jesus–A New Revelation, which included verbatim 76 of the 196 papers included in The Urantia Book. McMullan and the Michael Foundation subsequently sought a legal declaration that the Urantia Foundation's copyright in The Urantia Book was either invalid or, alternatively, that the copyright had not been infringed upon. Urantia Foundation's copyright was held to have expired in 1983 because the book was deemed to have been neither a composite work nor a commissioned work for hire. These two arguments having been rejected, a U.S. court held that, since the Conduit had deceased prior to 1983, only the Conduit's heirs would have been eligible to renew the copyright in 1983 and, since they had not done so, the Urantia Foundation's copyright on the book had expired and the book had therefore passed into the public domain. This decision was upheld on appeal.
The Urantia Book is 2,097 pages long and consists of an introductory foreword followed by 196 "papers" divided into four parts:
•Part I, titled "The Central and Superuniverse", addresses what the authors consider the highest levels of creation, including the eternal and infinite "Universal Father," his Trinity associates, and the "Isle of Paradise."
•Part II, "The Local Universe", describes the origin, administration and personalities of the local universe of "Nebadon," the part of the cosmos where Earth resides. It presents narratives on the inhabitants of local universes and their work as it is coordinated with a scheme of spiritual ascension and progression of different orders of beings, including humans, angels, and others.
•Part III, "The History of Urantia", compiles a broad history of the Earth, presenting a purported explanation of the origin, evolution and destiny of the world and its inhabitants. Topics include Adam and Eve, Melchizedek, essays on the concept of the Thought Adjuster, "Religion in Human Experience," and "Personality Survival."
•Part IV, "The Life and Teachings of Jesus", is the largest part at 775 pages, and is often noted as the most accessible and most impressive, narrating a detailed biography of Jesus that includes his childhood, teenage years, family life, public ministry, as well as the events that led to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It continues with papers about appearances after he rose, Pentecost, and finally, "The Faith of Jesus."
Nature of God
According to The Urantia Book, God is the creator and upholder of all reality—an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, and eternal spirit personality. The most fundamental teaching about God in the book is that he is a Father. "The face which the Infinite turns toward all universe personalities is the face of a Father, the Universal Father of love."
God, according to the book, is one Deity who functions on a range of different levels of reality, both personal and impersonal. God is taught to exist in a Trinity of three perfectly individualized persons who are co-equal: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. These persons are referred to by additional titles in the book, primarily as the "Universal Father," "Eternal Son," and "Infinite Spirit." While stating that the concept of one God in three persons is difficult to fully understand, the book says that the idea "in no manner violates the truth of the divine unity. The three personalities of Paradise Deity are, in all universe reality reactions and in all creature relations, as one."
The Father, Son, and Spirit are considered "existential" persons of Deity, those in existence from the eternal past to the eternal future. In addition, three persons of Deity are described who are "experiential," or incomplete and in the process of actualizing: God the Supreme, God the Ultimate, and God the Absolute. Of these three, God the Supreme, or "the Supreme Being," is given the most explanation, as the person of Deity evolving in time and space to unify finite reality and the infinite. The persons of God the Ultimate and God the Absolute are considered to be remote from the possibility of comprehension and are covered on a limited basis.
Many types of celestial beings are enumerated in the book, and one of particular note is a joint "offspring" of the Universal Father and Eternal Son called a "Creator Son." A divine Creator Son is considered the highest personification of the Universal Father and Eternal Son that is possible for people to know and "is, to all practical intents and purposes, God." Jesus of Nazareth is identified as a Creator Son who incarnated on Earth, and the central theme of the book's section recounting his life and teachings is that the religion he preached is the highest known to the world.
The final paper states:
To "follow Jesus" means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the Master's life of unselfish service for man. One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.
God and the individual
God is described as the Father of each individual, and through the direct gift of a fragment of his eternal spirit, called a Thought Adjuster, is said to be able to guide the individual toward an increased understanding of him. The Thought Adjuster is a central teaching of the bookand is also referred to as a "Mystery Monitor" and "indwelling presence," as well as a "divine spark. The idea is compared within the book to the Hindu atman and the ancient Egyptian ka. In relation to biblical traditions, the Thought Adjuster is said to be the meaning behind the phrases "being made in God's image" and the "kingdom of God is within you":
The Adjuster is the mark of divinity, the presence of God. The "image of God" does not refer to physical likeness nor to the circumscribed limitations of material creature endowment but rather to the gift of the spirit presence of the Universal Father in the supernal bestowal of the Thought Adjusters upon the humble creatures of the universes.
Each person is said to receive one such fragment at the time of his or her first independent moral decision, on average around the age of five years and 10 months. The Adjuster then serves noncoercively as a divine partner in the mind of the individual for the rest of life, and to the extent that a person consents with their free will to want to find God, it leads the person toward more mature, spiritualized thinking.
A person's Thought Adjuster is described as distinct from either the soul or the conscience. In The Urantia Book's teachings, the degree to which a human mind chooses to accept its Adjuster's guidance becomes the degree to which a person's soul "grows" and becomes a reality that can then survive death. The soul is in essence an embryonic spiritual development, one parental factor being the divine Adjuster and the other being the human will.
The book says, "But you yourself are mostly unconscious of this inner ministry. You are quite incapable of distinguishing the product of your own material intellect from that of the conjoint activities of your soul and the Adjuster." The book is strongly fideistic and teaches that neither science nor logic will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of God, arguing that faith is necessary to become conscious of God's presence in human experience, the Thought Adjuster.
Persistently embracing sin is considered the same as rejecting the leadings of the Adjuster, rejecting the will of God. Constant selfishness and sinful choosing lead eventually to iniquity and full identification with unrighteousness, and since unrighteousness is unreal, it results in the eventual annihilation of the individual's identity. Personalities like this become "as if they never were." The book says that "in the last analysis, such sin-identified individuals have destroyed themselves by becoming wholly unreal through their embrace of iniquity." The concepts of Hell and reincarnation are not taught.
The book says that a person ultimately is destined to fuse with his or her divine fragment and become one inseparable entity with it as the final goal of faith. Uniting with the Adjuster fragment is the "reward of the ages," the moment when a human personality has successfully and unalterably won eternal life, described as typically taking place in the afterlife, but also a possibility during earthly life. The result during human life is a "fusion flash," with the material body consumed in a fiery light and the soul "translated" to the afterlife. The Hebrew prophet Elijah being taken to heaven without death in "chariots of fire" is said to be a rare example in recorded history of a person who translated instead of experiencing death.
After a person fuses with his or her fragment of God, "then will begin your real life, the ascending life, to which your present mortal state is but the vestibule." A person continues as an ascending citizen in the universe and travels through numerous worlds on a long pilgrimage of growth and learning that eventually leads to God and residence on Paradise. Mortals who reach this stage are called "finaliters. The book goes on to discuss the potential destinies of these "glorified mortals."
The book regards human life on earth as a "short and intense test," and the afterlife as a continuation of training that begins in material life. The "religion of Jesus" is considered to be practiced by way of loving God the Father, thereby learning to love each person the way Jesus loves people; that is, recognizing the "fatherhood of God and its correlated truth, the brotherhood of man," resulting in unselfish service to others.
The book describes that at the center of the cosmos is the stationary Isle of Paradise—the dwelling place of God—with Paradise being surrounded by "Havona," an eternal universe containing a billion perfect worlds, around which seven incomplete and evolutionary "superuniverses" circle.
The word "universe" in the book is used to denote a number of different scales of organization. A "superuniverse" is roughly the size of a galaxy or group of galaxies, and the seven superuniverses along with Paradise-Havona are together designated as the "grand universe." A "local universe" is a portion of a superuniverse, with 100,000 local universes being in each superuniverse. Beyond the seven superuniverses, uninhabited "outer space levels" are described. The term "master universe" refers to what in modern usage would be the total universe—all existing matter and space taken as a whole.
Urantia is said to be located in a remote local universe named "Nebadon," which itself is part of superuniverse number seven, "Orvonton." The physical size of a local universe is not directly stated, but each is said to have up to 10 million inhabited worlds.
History and future of the world
The book's extensive teachings about the history of the world include its physical development about 4.5 billion years ago, the gradual changes in conditions that allowed life to develop, and long ages of organic evolution that started with microscopic marine life and led to plant and animal life in the oceans, later on land. The emergence of humans is presented as having occurred about a million years ago from a branch of superior primates originating from a lemur ancestor. The first humans are said to have been a pair of twins called Andon and Fonta, born in 991,485 B.C.
The Urantia Book teaches not only biological evolution, but that human society and spiritual understandings evolve by slow progression, subject both to periods of rapid improvement and the possibility of retrogression. Progress is said to follow a divine plan that includes periodic gifts of revelation and ministry by heavenly teachers, which eventually will lead to an ideal world status of "light and life" in the far distant future.
Though there is the ideal and divine plan of progression, it is said to be fostered and administered by various orders of celestial beings who are not always perfect. Urantia is said to be a markedly "confused and disordered" planet that is "greatly retarded in all phases of intellectual progress and spiritual attainment" compared to more typical inhabited worlds, due to an unusually severe history of rebellion and default by its spiritual supervisors.
One symbol described in The Urantia Book consists of three concentric azure circles on a white background. The circles are said to symbolize God's triune nature of Father, Son, and Spirit. When the Creator Son Michael, later incarnated on Earth as Jesus, went to war with Lucifer 200,000 years ago, he used the concentric circles on his banner. Lucifer's emblem was a solid black circle in the center of a red one.
Urantia Foundation, the original publisher, placed the concentric circles on the cover of The Urantia Book and has a United States trademark. The circles are used to indicate other organizations affiliated with the foundation.
The Urantia Association International, one of the main readership organizations in the movement, has been licensed by Urantia Foundation to use the three azure concentric circles on a white background.
The symbol is also used in various altered forms. The Urantia Book Fellowship, an independent reader organization established in 1955, uses a similar symbol.
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