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The Urantia Book

The Urantia Book (also sometimes called The Urantia Papers or the Fifth Epochal Revelation) is a spiritual and philosophical book that discusses God, science, religion, history, philosophy, and destiny. It originated in Chicago, Illinois, USA, sometime between 1924 and 1955, but its authorship is unclear. There has been much debate and speculation on how the papers were produced.

The writers introduce the word Urantia as the name of the planet Earth and state that their intent is to "present enlarged concepts and advanced truth" in an "endeavor to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception." Among many other topics, it expounds on the origin and meaning of life, describes humankind's place in the universe, discusses the relationship between God and people, and presents a detailed biography of Jesus.

The Urantia Foundation first published The Urantia Book in 1955 in English. Translations into eleven other languages are available, with new translations in process. An edition containing a topical index and a free audio DVD is published by Uversa Press.

In 2001, a United States jury trial in Oklahoma City found that the Urantia Foundation's 1983 renewal of the book's copyright was invalid. This decision was upheld in the United States Court of Appeals 10th District, and the English version of the book is considered to have entered the public domain in the U.S. as of 1983. In 2006, the international copyright on the English text expired. Complete, searchable editions of The Urantia Book are available on the Internet, as well as free audio versions.

Overview of The Urantia Book

The Urantia Book is 2,097 pages long, and consists of a foreword followed by 196 "papers", divided into four parts:

  • Part I: The Central and Superuniverses
  • Part II: The Local Universe
  • Part III: The History of Urantia
  • Part IV: The Life and Teachings of Jesus

The foreword is in outline form and is presented as a guide to the terminology used throughout the rest of the book, introducing explanations for concepts and words that are developed in greater detail with later papers.

Part I consists of 31 papers that address what are considered the highest levels of creation, beginning with the concepts of the eternal and infinite God.

Part II consists of 25 papers dedicated to subjects pertaining to "local universes." Part II expands on Part I and presents narratives on the inhabitants of local universes and their work, as it is coordinated with God’s plans in the larger schemes of creation.

Part III consists of 48 papers that compile a broad history of the Earth, presenting a purported explanation of the origin, purpose and destiny of the world and its inhabitants. An additional 15 papers cover varied topics such as "Deity and Reality", the concept of the Thought Adjuster, "Personality Survival", and "The Bestowals of Christ Michael".

Part IV consists of 77 papers and narrates "The Life and Teachings of Jesus". Included are papers about his childhood, teenage years, numerous travels, several preaching tours, miracles, crises, and the events that led to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It continues with papers on Pentecost, and finally, "The Faith of Jesus". In addition, Part IV illustrates many of the concepts presented in the first three parts through the story of Jesus' life.

Authorship

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" spiritual revelation to humankind. For each paper, either a name, or an order of celestial being, or a group of beings is credited as its author.

As early as 1911, William S. Sadler and his wife Lena Sadler, physicians in Chicago and well known in the community, were approached by a neighbor who was concerned that 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 in early 1925 with a "voluminous handwritten document", which from then on became the regular method of purported communication. The Sadlers were both respected physicians; William Sadler in particular 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 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, and which I would like very much to narrate more fully; I cannot do so here, however, because of a promise which I feel under obligation to keep sacredly. In other words, I have promised not to publish this case during the lifetime of the individual. I hope sometime to secure a modification of that promise and be able to report this case more fully because of its interesting features. 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. While the sleep seems to be quite of a natural order, it is very profound, and so far we have never been able to awaken the subject when in this state; but the body is never rigid, and the heart action is never modified, though respiration is sometimes markedly interfered with. 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. In fact, he is more or less indifferent to the whole proceeding, and shows a surprising lack of interest in these affairs as they occur from time to time.

Eighteen years of study and careful investigation have failed to reveal the psychic origin of these messages. I find myself at the present time just where I was when I started. 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. Its philosophic content is quite new, and we are unable to find where very much of it has ever found human expression.

In 1924, a group of Sadler's friends, former patients, and colleagues began meeting for Sunday intellectual discussions, but became interested in the strange communications when Sadler mentioned the case 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. 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.

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 three parts being completed in 1934 and the fourth in 1935. The last Forum gathering was in 1942. Also documented are methods of reception that Sadler refuted as the way the papers were received.

After all of the written material was received 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 because "A city can not be lit by a candle. The Foreword was then "received." Bill Sadler is noted to have composed the table of contents that is published with the book.

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 under international copyright 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 a more plausible explanation concerning the origin of the book compared to celestial beings is that the Contact Commission, particularly William Sadler, was responsible. Martin 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. 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 Sadler's The Mind at Mischief, does not indicate authorship or extensive editing by Sadler, without ruling out the possibility of limited edits.

Teachings

Nature of God

God in The Urantia Book 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 loving Father, with whom all may have a personal relationship. "The face which the Infinite turns toward all universe personalities is the face of a Father, the Universal Father of love." Even during the development of numerous other themes in The Urantia Book, God as a loving Father is emphasized as the central, unifying attitude of God toward his creation.

From Paper 2, "The Nature of God":

God is inherently kind, naturally compassionate, and everlastingly merciful. And never is it necessary that any influence be brought to bear upon the Father to call forth his loving-kindness. The creature's need is wholly sufficient to insure the full flow of the Father's tender mercies and his saving grace. Since God knows all about his children, it is easy for him to forgive. The better man understands his neighbor, the easier it will be to forgive him, even to love him.

God is said to be a mystery though because of the infinite scope of his perfection and his attributes. From Paper 1, "The Universal Father":

God is not hiding from any of his creatures. He is unapproachable to so many orders of beings only because he "dwells in a light which no material creature can approach." The immensity and grandeur of the divine personality is beyond the grasp of the unperfected mind of evolutionary mortals. Today, and as you are, you must discern the invisible Maker through his manifold and diverse creation, as well as through the revelation and ministration of his Sons and their numerous subordinates.

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 full representation of the Universal Father and Eternal Son that is possible to people. Jesus of Nazareth is identified as a Creator Son who incarnated on Earth and whose life and teachings are portrayed as the fullest revelation of the personality and attitude of God ever given to humanity.

Paper 196, 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 able to guide the individual toward an increased understanding of him. The Thought Adjuster is also called a "Mystery Monitor," "inner voice," "divine spark," and "pilot light". The concept is in certain ways comparable to the Hindu atman, the ancient Egyptian ka, and the Quaker inner light. From philosophy, it is similar to what Socrates' described as his "daimonion". In relation to biblical traditions, the Thought Adjuster is described by the book as the meaning behind the phrases "being made in God's image" and the "kingdom of God is within you".

From Paper 108, "Mission and Ministry of Thought Adjusters":

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.

According to The Urantia Book, each normal-minded person receives one such fragment at the time of his or her first independent moral decision, on average around the age of five years and ten months. The Adjuster then serves noncoercively as a divine partner 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. Through the practice of learning how to follow the inner leadings of the Adjuster — choose "God's will" — the individual progresses to greater God consciousness and spiritual growth.

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 many times links the biblical New Testament teachings of becoming like a little child in attitude of trust and sincerity as being the stance each person should have toward God. It says the attitude of open-minded teachability facilitates spiritual growth in liaison with the work of the Thought Adjuster and invariably leads a person to love and serve other people. It also 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.

From Paper 101, "The Real Nature of Religion":

Religious experience, being essentially spiritual, can never be fully understood by the material mind; hence the function of theology, the psychology of religion. The essential doctrine of the human realization of God creates a paradox in finite comprehension. It is well-nigh impossible for human logic and finite reason to harmonize the concept of divine immanence, God within and a part of every individual, with the idea of God's transcendence, the divine domination of the universe of universes. These two essential concepts of Deity must be unified in the faith-grasp of the concept of the transcendence of a personal God and in the realization of the indwelling presence of a fragment of that God in order to justify intelligent worship and validate the hope of personality survival. The difficulties and paradoxes of religion are inherent in the fact that the realities of religion are utterly beyond the mortal capacity for intellectual comprehension.

Persistently embracing sin is the same as rejecting the leadings of the Adjuster, the same as 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.

From Paper 5, "God's Relation to the Individual":

The great God makes direct contact with mortal man and gives a part of his infinite and eternal and incomprehensible self to live and dwell within him. God has embarked upon the eternal adventure with man. If you yield to the leadings of the spiritual forces in you and around you, you cannot fail to attain the high destiny established by a loving God as the universe goal of his ascendant creatures from the evolutionary worlds of space.

The book says that a person ultimately is destined to fuse with his or her divine fragment and become one inseparable entity with it, if the person chooses to accept the Adjuster's leadings and become self-identified with it. The act of fusion is 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 attained fusion. Once fused with his or her fragment of God, a person continues as an ascending citizen in the universe and travels through numerous worlds on a long, adventurous pilgrimage of growth and learning that eventually leads to God and Paradise. Mortals who reach this stage are called "finaliters." The book goes on to discuss the potential destinies of these "glorified mortals".

The Urantia Book places much emphasis on the idea that all individuals have the same opportunity to come to know God, and it says nothing can hinder a human being's spiritual progression if he or she is sincerely motivated to be spirit led. People are to actively work to understand each other and to seek to live in love and peace, being of help to one another. The practice of the "religion of Jesus" is to love God the Father with a person's whole being, thereby learning to love each person the way Jesus loves people; that is, recognizing others as brothers and sisters and being of unselfish service to one another.

Cosmology

The Urantia Book presents a detailed cosmological perspective on the universe and humankind's relation to it. It teaches that the universe is vastly older than current scientific theories state, and that the universe is the product of intelligent and purposeful organization.

The term "universe" is used to denote a number of different scales of organization, possibly because the book was written at a time when galaxies outside of the Milky Way were still called "island universes". A superuniverse is roughly the size of a galaxy or group of galaxies. A local universe is described as approximately 0.00001 the size of a superuniverse. The modern dictionary definition of universe — all existing matter and space taken as a whole — is referred to as the "master universe". When the term "universe" is used alone, the type usually can be inferred from the context.

The visualization of the cosmos presented from the center outward is:

  • The Isle of Paradise — "the most gigantic organized body of cosmic reality in all the master universe".
  • The Sacred Spheres of Paradise — twenty-one enormous worlds, three circuits of seven worlds each — the Worlds of the Father, the Worlds of the Son, and the Worlds of the Spirit orbiting in three processions on the inner margin of space.
  • Havona — one billion (1,000,000,000) perfect worlds across seven circuits, with "upwards of thirty-five million worlds" in the first or inner circuit, "over two hundred and forty-five million worlds" in the seventh or "outermost" circuit, and "proportional numbers" of worlds in the intervening circuits.
  • Surrounding these are "dark gravity bodies" that "completely encircle and enshroud Havona" and whose "multitudinous bodies" are "divided into two equal elliptical circuits by a unique space intrusion." The Isle of Paradise, the twenty-one Sacred Spheres, the one billion worlds of Havona, and the orbiting dark gravity bodies taken as a whole are interchangeably referred to as the "central universe," the "divine universe," and the "Paradise-Havona system".
  • The central universe is surrounded by a "relatively quiet midspace zone" of lessened motion and undisclosed diameter.
  • Beyond the midspace zone, seven superuniverses swing around the central universe and have an approximate diameter of 400,000 - 500,000 light-years. These contain the evolutionary worlds of time and space. The seven superuniverses are then immediately surrounded by another midspace zone "which varies in width but averages 400,000 light-years". One of the stated purposes of the cosmos is to provide worlds where intelligent life may be created or evolved from primitive life. Each of the seven superuniverses, when fully developed, would have approximately one trillion inhabited worlds. Each divisional level has "architectural worlds," including a headquarters sphere, which are worlds made to order and are independently lighted and heated for the celestial and other life of those spheres. They are created to be administrative and educational worlds and are said to be at the approximate, and sometimes exact, gravity center of their regions of inhabited worlds and physical systems. A detailed organization of superuniverses is provided. Briefly, levels of organization are:
    • Individual inhabited worlds such as Urantia (Earth);
    • Local systems — 1,000 inhabited worlds;
    • Constellations — 100 local systems;
    • Local universes — 100 constellations;
    • Minor sectors — 100 local universes;
    • Major sectors — 100 minor sectors;
    • Superuniverses — 10 major sectors.
  • Beyond are enormous, uninhabited "outer space levels". The first outer space level is estimated to be fifty million light-years in diameter and surrounded by a midspace zone of approximately the same diameter.
  • The second, third, and fourth outer space levels surround each previous level with greater and greater magnitude and each is separated by a midspace zone of about the same magnitude as the previous space level.
  • From Appendix 3, Section 3 in "Sadler, William S., Jr., Appendices to A Study of The Master Universe", the authors of The Urantia Book "postulate an additional and unrevealed creation" beyond this, "a possible never-beginning, never-ending universe of infinity".

The book describes alternative explanations to current hypotheses in science regarding the universe's origin, and suggests sources of error in current astronomical observations. For example, the concept of "space respiration" — that all of space itself undergoes "two-billion-year expansion-contraction cycles"— is claimed to be part of the explanation for astronomic redshift. The Urantia Book says we are currently almost half way through an expansion cycle.

The Urantia Book states that the cosmology in the papers will be in need of revision as new discoveries emerge in science, and that its presentations are not meant to be a substitute for science.

History and future of the world

Urantia is considered one inhabited sphere among millions of others in the universe. The book's extensive teachings about the history of the world include its physical development billions of years ago from cataclysmic meteor captures, the gradual changes in conditions that allowed life to develop, and the 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 Urantia Book says "this story is graphically told within the fossil pages of the vast 'stone book' of world record ... the pages of this gigantic biogeologic record unfailingly tell the truth if you but acquire skill in their interpretation". Unlike current scientific views, evolution is said to be orderly and controlled. Primordial life is taught to have been intelligently planned, implanted, and monitored by "Life Carriers," instead of arising spontaneously. The book says that "mortal man is not an evolutionary accident", and that the purpose of evolution on a planet such as Urantia is to produce creatures of "will dignity" that can develop spiritual natures and survive material existence, going on to have eternal spiritual careers.

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, it is fostered and administered by various orders of celestial beings who are less than perfect. Through mistakes or deliberate rebellion, the plan can be wrecked, requiring long spans of time to recoup lost progress. Urantia is taught to be a markedly "dark and confused" 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.

Comparisons to religious teachings

Comparison to Christianity

Of all current major world religions, The Urantia Book's teachings are most similar to the teachings of Christianity. However, there are numerous and significant differences between The Urantia Book and commonly accepted Christian beliefs.

Jesus is held in high regard by The Urantia Book, as he is in the New Testament of the Bible. More than one third of the content of the book (Part IV), is devoted to a narrative of his life and teachings. The narrative is said to be a restatement of Jesus' life and teachings based on a gathering of "superior concepts" from over two thousand individuals who have lived since his times, as well as "superhuman" and "superplanetary sources of information".

The following are attributed to Jesus, as in the Bible:

  • He was a Son of God incarnate, born to Mary and Joseph;
  • He was God in man, both human and divine;
  • He lived a perfect life;
  • He revealed God to man as "the way, the truth, and the life";
  • He performed many of the miracles described in the Bible, such as the resurrection of Lazarus, the turning of water into wine, the feeding of the five thousand, and numerous healings of the blind, diseased, and infirm;
  • He taught twelve apostles, most of whom went on to spread his teachings;
  • He was crucified, and on the third day after his death, rose from the dead;
  • He will return to our world again some day.

The Urantia Book shares the following general concepts with most Christian faiths:

  • God is the creator of all reality;
  • God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, and eternal;
  • God is described as a loving personality – "God is love";
  • God is a single deity that exists in a Trinity of three persons;
  • God has a vast "heavenly host";
  • Believers who have a personal relationship with God are "born of the spirit";
  • Those having faith in God survive death;
  • Angels and divine personalities exist and are sent to guard and minister to people throughout their lives.

Some differences with Christianity include:

  • Jesus' crucifixion is not considered an atonement for the sins of humanity. The crucifixion is taught to be an outcome of the fears of religious leaders of the day, who regarded his teachings as a threat to their positions of authority.
  • God is never wrathful or angry. He is a personality entirely motivated by Father-like love.
  • Jesus is the human incarnation of "Michael of Nebadon," one of more than 700,000 "Paradise Sons" of God, or "Creator Sons." Jesus is not considered the second person of the Trinity as he is in Christianity. The book refers to the Eternal Son as the second person of the Trinity.
  • Jesus was born on earth through natural means of conception instead of a virgin birth.
  • Jesus did not walk on water or perform some of the miracles that are attributed to him in the Bible.
  • Jesus commissioned twelve women (and later more) as religious teachers, who were permitted to travel about with Jesus and his apostles on their preaching missions.
  • Jesus rose from the dead in a "more glorified form", reflective of a transitional state between material and spiritual existence known as "morontia". As with all mortals, his physical body was subject to decomposition, but celestial beings removed his body from the tomb for the dissolution of his remains through a process of "accelerated time".
  • The book states that Jesus may return to the world many times. Christian eschatology doctrines such as the Rapture, where Jesus returns to take faithful believers to heaven and leaves behind unbelievers for tribulation, are not supported.

Comparison to Buddhism

The Urantia Book considers Buddhism one of the "great international, interracial faiths" and says it "has shown an adaptability to the mores of many peoples that has been equaled only by Christianity".

Gautama Siddhartha is called a real prophet whose doctrines were revolutionary and amazing for their time. He is credited with being one of the seven outstanding teachers in human history in the matter of combining contemporaneous systems of ethical and religious teachings, a group that includes Moses, Laozi, and the Apostle Paul.

The teaching that a divine nature — the Buddha-nature — resides in all people, and that through their own endeavors people can attain a realization of this inner divinity, is cited as one of the clearest presentations of the concept of the Thought Adjuster to be found in non-revelatory religion.

The book says Gautama's experience was tragic, however, in that he was an "orphan prophet" whose philosophy failed early on to envision the reality of a spiritual God.

Despite this, the book states: "Buddhism is a living, growing religion today because it succeeds in conserving many of the highest moral values of its adherents. It promotes calmness and self-control, augments serenity and happiness, and does much to prevent sorrow and mourning. Those who believe this philosophy live better lives than many who do not".

Comparison to other world religions

Numerous facets of the book are recognizable in other world religions. There are commonalities with Islam, Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Shinto, and Confucianism, and several other religions throughout recorded history. The authors of The Urantia Book encourage the study of all religions to take "the best" from each.

Paper 131, "The World's Religions", discusses more in-depth those facets of some of the world's religions that have commonalities with the "religion of Jesus," but there are also numerous other references to the world's various religions throughout Part III, "The History of Urantia," beginning with Paper 86, "Early Evolution of Religion"

Consideration as literature

The Urantia Book has been enjoyed by some as a form of science fiction, historical fiction, or fantasy. By others it is considered as historical fact. The Urantia Book is noted for its high level of internal consistency and an advanced writing style. Skeptic Martin Gardner, in a book otherwise highly critical of The Urantia Book, writes that it is "highly imaginative" and that the "cosmology outrivals in fantasy the cosmology of any science-fiction work known to me".

Parts I, II, and III are chiefly written in expository language. The papers are informational, matter-of-fact, and instructional. Part IV of the book is written as a biography of Jesus' life, and some feel it is a rich narrative with well-developed characters, high attention to detail, woven sub-plots, and realistic dialogue. Considered as literature, Part IV is favorably compared to other retellings of Jesus' life, such as The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago and Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock. Martin Gardner considers Part IV to be an especially "well-written, impressive work", and says, "Either it is accurate in its history, coming directly from higher beings in position to know, or it is a work of fertile imagination by someone who knew the New Testament by heart and who was also steeped in knowledge of the times when Jesus lived".

Critical views

The Urantia Book has received limited published or formal critical analysis. Likely the most common points of contention include:

  • It claims to be a revelation from celestial beings and is written as if directly presented by these celestial beings.
  • From a scientific point of view, parts of the science it describes conflict with modern theories.
  • Some of the concepts are alleged to have been plagiarized.
  • To those who assert that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, it denies some Christian doctrines that are held to be true, and therefore is not acceptable.

Criticisms of claims as a revelation

In Paper 92, "The Later Evolution of Religion", the authors list the papers as the fifth revelation of "epochal significance" to humankind, the fourth epochal revelation having been the life of Jesus.

The book has been in print since 1955, but in comparison to other religious or holy books that have a recent origin and revelatory claims, such as the Book of Mormon, popularity of The Urantia Book has not grown as fast. The small movement inspired by The Urantia Book has not developed clergy or institutions such as churches, reading rooms, or temples, and has no membership by which a census of the number of followers can be taken. As of 2006, the Urantia Foundation had one office in Chicago and five people on staff. The claim of revelation in The Urantia Book has been criticized for various reasons. Skeptics such as Martin Gardner say it is a product of human efforts rather than a revelation because some of its science is flawed. Because the book does not support certain fundamental tenets of Christianity, while at the same time presenting an account of Jesus' life with non-Biblical elements, those with a Christian viewpoint have argued it cannot be a genuine divine revelation. Some have considered it to be gnostic; however, The Urantia Book does not advocate tenets associated with Gnosticism.

Other critics have felt that at over 2,000 pages — nearly twice the length of the King James Bible — it is too long, complex, and bureaucratic in its thinking.

Criticism of science

In Paper 101, "The Real Nature of Religion," the authors write:
We full well know that, while the historic facts and religious truths of this series of revelatory presentations will stand on the records of the ages to come, within a few short years many of our statements regarding the physical sciences will stand in need of revision in consequence of additional scientific developments and new discoveries. These new developments we even now foresee, but we are forbidden to include such humanly undiscovered facts in the revelatory records. Let it be made clear that revelations are not necessarily inspired. The cosmology of these revelations is not inspired.

Skeptics like Martin Gardner see the science in The Urantia Book as clear reflections of the views that prevailed at the time the book is said to have originated. The claim by the authors that no unknown scientific discoveries could be imparted is seen as a ruse to allow mistakes to be dismissed later. That presentation of post-1955 scientific knowledge is avoided is taken to be evidence it was written by humans and not by celestial beings with superior knowledge.

Examples of criticisms regarding the science in The Urantia Book include:

  • The described formation of the solar system is consistent with the Chamberlin-Moulton planetesimal hypothesis Though popular in the early part of the 20th century, by the early 1940s it was discarded by Henry Russell's argument that it was incompatible with the angular momentum of planets such as Jupiter The currently accepted scientific explanation for the origin of the solar system is based on the nebular hypothesis.
  • The age of our universe is stated to be more than 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) years old and the universe is said to periodically expand and contract — respire — at 2-billion-year intervals. Current observations, however, suggest that the true age of the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years. The big bang theory is not supported.
  • A fundamental particle called an "ultimaton" is proposed, with an electron being composed of 100 ultimatons. The particle is not known to be described anywhere else and the concept is not supported by modern particle physics.
  • Some species are said to have evolved suddenly from single mutations without transitional species. The theory originated with Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries, but was short-lived and is not now supported.
  • According to The Urantia Book, multi-colored human races originated suddenly in one generation and in one family, producing brothers and sisters that variously turned blue, yellow, red, green, orange, and indigo when exposed to sunlight. Their offspring subsequently favored the parent color. Later, Adam and Eve produced a violet race. In the book's account, the blue, yellow, and red races were considered "primary", and the green, orange, and indigo "secondary". The green and orange races were driven to extinction, and the rest mixed over time. Modern evolutionary theory does not support this account.
  • The book repeats the idea prevalent at the time of its origin that one side of the planet Mercury always faces the sun due to tidal locking. In 1965, radio astronomers discovered that Mercury actually rotates fast enough for all sides to see exposure to the sun. Also in the same passage, the book erroneously states that tidal friction will slow the rotation of a planet or other orbiting body "until axial revolution ceases". Revolutions do not cease, however, but stabilize so that the time to complete one revolution becomes equal to the time needed to complete an orbit.
  • The book says that a solar eclipse was predicted in 1808 by the Native American prophet Tenskwatawa. The eclipse actually was predicted in late April 1806 and occurred on June 16, 1806.

Controversial statements about human races can be found in the book. Supporters state that criticism has arisen mainly due to reading passages out of context. Gardner believes that William S. Sadler, who wrote some eugenicist works, had a hand in editing or writing the book, and that this is how the ideas were included. Controversial statements about the sexes can also be found. While the book supports the increase in status and autonomy of women, it also states that women and men inhabit separate "spheres," and that women tend to have more intuition but less logical capability than men.

While some adherents of the book believe that all of the information in The Urantia Book including its science is literally true, some others accept the book's caveats and do not believe that the science is fully accurate.

Meredith Sprunger, a liberal believer in The Urantia Book and retired minister in the United Church of Christ, writes, "research has revealed that virtually all of the scientific material found in The Urantia Book was the accepted scientific knowledge of the period in which the book was written, was held by some scientists of that time, or was about to be discovered or recognized." He argues against its literal infallibility and that fundamentalism over the book is "just as untenable as Biblical fundamentalism".

Other believers maintain that the book has prophetically anticipated scientific advances already. They believe more of its science — if not all of it — will be proven correct in the future. Gardner evaluated many of these claims as of 1995 and found them unconvincing. Some arise because the book is said to have been indited by the revelators by 1935, but then was not published until 1955. Science discovered during the two intervening decades can be perceived as prophetic by believers, while skeptics think such facts were added prior to publication. For instance, the catalytic role that carbon plays in the sun's nuclear reactions is described in the book, though Hans Bethe's announcement of the discovery was not made until 1938.

The only apparent anticipation of science the book has made, in Gardner's opinion, is that it says the magnetic sense that homing pigeons possess is "not wholly wanting as a conscious possession by mankind". In 1980, a British zoologist, Robin Baker, published evidence that humans have a limited magnetic sense.

Mark McMenamin, a professor of geology, quotes a section of the book describing a billion-year-old supercontinent that subsequently split apart, forming ocean basins where early marine life developed. He says, "This amazing passage, written in the 1930s, anticipates scientific results that did not actually appear in the scientific literature until many decades later". McMenamin also states, "Of course I am being selective here in my choice of quotations, and there are reams of scientifically untenable material in The Urantia Book.

Plagiarism allegations

The Urantia Book states in its Foreword that more than one thousand "human concepts representing the highest and most advanced planetary knowledge of spiritual values and universe meanings" were selected in preparing the papers. The authors say that they were required to "give preference to the highest existing human concepts pertaining to the subjects to be presented" and would "resort to pure revelation only when the concept of presentation has had no adequate previous expression by the human mind."

In recent years, students of the papers have found that the free use of other sources appears to be true. None of the material allegedly used from other sources are directly cited or referenced within the book.

In 1992, a reader of The Urantia Book, Matthew Block, self-published a paper that showed nineteen alleged examples of The Urantia Book utilizing material published earlier. All of the source authors identified in Block's paper were published in English between 1905 and 1943 by U.S. publishers and are typically scholarly or academic works that contain concepts and wording similar to what is found in The Urantia Book. Block has since claimed to have discovered over 125 source books and articles, written by over 90 authors, which were incorporated into the papers.

The use of outside source materials was studied separately by Gardner and Gooch, and they concluded that the book did use many of the sources noted by Block. Gardner found that at least one of the source book authors was quoted in earlier works by Sadler, and most of the books purportedly would have been available to Sadler or Forum members in Chicago prior to 1955.

For instance, Gardner and Block note that Paper 85 appears to have been taken from the first eight chapters of Origin and Evolution of Religion by E. Washburn Hopkins, published by Yale University Press in 1923. Each section of the paper corresponds to a chapter in the book, with several passages possibly used as direct material. Likewise, much of The Urantia Book material relating to the evolution of mankind appears to have been directly taken from Henry Fairfield Osborn, Man Rises to Parnassus: Critical Epochs in the Prehistory of Man published by Princeton University Press in 1928.

In one example cited by Block, the original author discusses the periodicity of the chemical elements and concludes that the harmony in the construction of the atom suggests some unspecified plan of organization. After being "plagiarized," the authors of The Urantia Book assert that this harmony is evidence of the intelligent design of the universe. W. F. G. Swann writes on page 64 of The Architecture of the Universe (italics indicate edits as compared to The Urantia Book, bolding indicates deletions):

Starting from any one of them [i.e., chemical elements], and noting some property such as the melting point, for example, the property would change as we went along the row, but as we continued it would gradually come back to the condition very similar to that which we started ... The eighth element was in many respects like the first, the ninth like the second, the tenth like the third, and so on. Such a slate of affairs point[s] not only to a varied internal structure, but also to a certain harmony in that variation suggestive of some organized plan in building the atom.

Contrast with The Urantia Book's version:

Starting from any one element, after noting some one property, such a quality will exchange for six consecutive elements, but on reaching the eighth, it tends to reappear, that is, the eighth chemically active element resembles the first, the ninth the second, and so on. Such a fact of the physical world unmistakably points to the sevenfold constitution of ancestral energy and is indicative of the fundamental reality of the sevenfold diversity of the creations of time and space.

Block and many believers do not see the use of human source materials as plagiarism. Block writes:

One probable reason that the human sources were left undisguised was to enable students to discern, through comparative analysis, how this coordination of planetary knowledge was actually effected. As mentioned above, the initial analyses have already proved tremendously illuminating in this regard. Another reason was to keep us aware of the book’s anchorage in a specific time and place. While a very large part of the book is of timeless value and perennial applicability, some of its discussions directly address and respond to the world situation of the early 20th century. Thus, every generation will have to determine the relevance and applicability of certain of the book’s teachings to its own situation. Emerging from all these discoveries is the gratifying realization that the Urantia Book is exactly what its authors claim it to be....

It should be noted that the wording and phraseology is not identical to the alleged source materials.

Adherents

There is no way to gauge who "adherents" are as there is no central organization to census. Informal study groups "tend to sprout, ripen, and some vanish or splinter" and have not been counted reliably. Readers sometimes join study groups after reading on their own for years or decades, while others join them right away and study for life. "For most, worship remains as individual as the act of reading." Disagreements over the legal ownership of the book, its interpretation, and the reception of new revelations have led to some splintering, though these disagreements appear to have been settled to the satisfaction of most adherents. The movement generally incorporates a nonsectarian view, contending that individuals with different religious backgrounds can receive the book's teachings as an enrichment rather than as a contradiction of their faiths.

Sarah Lewis notes that, "The Urantia Revelation is not securing legitimacy through historically known and accepted means to any great degree, nor is it even using common language that would increase the likelihood of understanding and therefore acceptance. It introduces new concepts and a new language, and this does not make acceptance any easier." She assesses that the movement is uncontroversial compared to other ones, "lacking the zealous proselytizing found within many other groups", and that it is therefore likely to remain small and unaffected by opposing views.

Urantia Foundation advocated a "slow growth" policy in the past and had not significantly marketed the book. Sales by Urantia Foundation went from 7,000 in 1990 to 24,700 in 1997, and steadily increased to nearly 38,000 in 2000, an "upturn that seems to represent a genuine trend rather than just some spike on a sales chart", however by 2006 the foundation reported worldwide annual sales of 13,380 copies. Approximately half of the books distributed by Urantia Foundation are in languages other than English, particularly Spanish and Russian. Since the book was determined to be in the public domain in 2001, other organizations have also published the book, their sales being unknown.

The International Urantia Association had twenty-six reader associations worldwide as of 2002, and the Urantia Book Fellowship (originally the Urantia Brotherhood, a spin-off of the foundation) claimed roughly twelve hundred official members, with the highest concentrations in the West of the United States and the Sun Belt, especially California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas. It appears an increasing number of people are forming study groups, participating in Internet discussion groups, and hosting or visiting websites about it. Reader conferences take place around the world.

Symbols

The primary symbol described in The Urantia Book consists of three concentric blue circles on a white background. The circles are said to have symbolized several trinity associations in the history of humankind. The authors of The Urantia Book indicate its revealed meaning as being "the infinity, eternity, and universality of the Paradise Trinity of divine maintenance and direction."

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 blue concentric circles on a white background.

THE URANTIA BOOK FELLOWSHIP, an independent reader organization established in 1955, uses a symbol reflecting our planet, Urantia, held within the guiding hands of its celestial administrators.

Some other groups use the symbol in various altered forms.

The Urantia Book in popular culture

  • German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's massive opera cycle Licht makes reference to it in the first and third acts of Donnerstag (Thursday), and in the symbols associated with two of the three main characters, Michael and Lucifer.
  • The band Deadsy is influenced by The Urantia Book, and makes references to it in several songs.
  • The album Monolith, by the American progressive rock group Kansas, was largely influenced by The Urantia Book.
  • The psychedelic/rock group Spirit released a series of albums influenced by The Urantia Book during the mid-1970s, most notable on the albums Spirit of '76 and Son of Spirit.
  • Pato Banton, international reggae recording artist, regularly performs and has dedicated himself to raising awareness about it.
  • Jazz fusion band Weather Report's seventh album titled "Heavy Weather" features a track titled "Havona" written by bass guitar legend Jaco Pastorius.
  • Author Denis Johnson describes a follower of the book within his novel Angels.
  • There have been accusations of J.J. Benítez plagiarizing The Urantia Book for his best-selling Spanish-language novel series Caballo de Troya (The Trojan Horse). He admitted in this book that he had drawn inspiration from The Urantia Book.
  • Mentioned in the Six Feet Under tie-in book Better Living Through Death
  • Jerry Gerber - Rebel Planet - writer & producer of electronic Orchestral and chamber music; film concerts; Adventures Of Gumby, "The inspiration for the symphony "Rebel Planet" comes from ideas in the Urantia Book."
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)-American blues-rock guitarist- "Stevie often brought along the book of Urantia and read Lindi passages from the strange publication"-
  • Robert Venosa -American artist-exhibited worldwide, represented in major collections, including noted museums, rock stars & European aristocracy.- "As is obvious in my work, The Urantia Book is very present as a main source of inspiration. After my first reading of the book in 1968, I had a number of visions that, being an artist, I could only make manifest through painting."

References

External links

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