Report of a Psychologist's assessment of Vern Grimsley and
his war messages
Note: In this document, M.B.H. is reporting on a visit which she made with psychologist P.K. to assess Vern Grimsley and his war messages.
November 20th, 1983
Last Wednesday, November 16th, P. K. and I spent five or six hours in Clayton, California. We talked to Vern Grimsley and other members of the Family of God.
The enclosed papers arise from that meeting. P. supplies the report on the psychological aspects of the meeting, as he has more education and training, and also more experience than I in this area. I wish to address the problems of the responsibilities of the body of readership of the Urantia Book. As I hope you can understand from my writing, I want us to gain warning from this event, and consciously to go ahead with our eyes open.
This is definite – P. and I agree that we came away with the opinion that this is ordinary human psychic phenomenon. Our observations were individual, but we agree in substance: that this is a case of human delusion, not divine intervention.
We also agree that the activities of stockpiling supplies and preparing for defense would make very interesting grist for the press’ mill. And, if there should be any kind of a tragic accident, the consequences of backlash on the book and its reputation would hold unreckonable negative effects.
I seek some continuing reader organization and dialog. I hope you will give us feedback on this situation.
M. B. H.
P.S. I believe P.’s conditions for distribution of the papers is sound and would like for you to apply the same criteria to the distribution of my paper.
The recent millennial stir through the Urantia movement is historically typical of new religious ideas and sects. In the first centuries after Jesus, early Christians were awaiting His immanent return and based all decisions on this assumption.
My own reaction to the recent reports of nuclear engagement has traveled from questioning to increasing belief to definite disbelief. As I trace that process, I can identify several factors that resonated with the news that World War III was about to happen. First, I had to deal with my own biography. I was old enough when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor to learn very thoroughly that was can happen suddenly and without warning. I balance that with the knowledge that there are differences in today’s situation.
Since the Second World War, there has been the possibility to global conflict and nuclear destruction. The first time I went to college was I the midst of angst as the potential of the “atomic bomb” became apparent. On the Beach and No Blade of Grass are books written about the consequences of such a war. The Cuban missile crisis was another time of heightened tension between this country and Russia. The term “brinksmanship” was coined during the Cold War period of the fifties, during which I lived for time behind the Iron Curtain in Europe. Now is another time for nuclear fears as the jockeying goes on concerning deployment of arms in Europe.
I think there is a common human response to all the psychological pressure of possible world destruction. We do not well endure knowledge of our own immanent termination, especially as a constant fear over a long period of time. Along with avoidance there is also a kind of exasperation, “Let’s get it over with!” The tension of waiting can make the dreaded event seem preferable.
Another factor of my own rationalization arose after I became acquainted with the Urantia Book and had to do with why it was here now before the times were ripe for its rapid acceptance. The prescription for the forming of many study groups seemed (to my mind) to argue the need for a framework in place for a future quick dissemination of the book. When would that be, I wondered – after some disaster when crisis conditions would provide the psychological climate for a new religious idea? Such were my musings and in retrospect it seems that the impatience of Eve is not a dead letter on this planet.
Last, I have had the ties of human affections for friends who are convinced or central to the predictions of an Armageddon. I have had a special (to me) relationship with Vern Grimsley. He was the minister who vouched for me when I entered seminary. I had to look into my reasons and motives in these exchanges, and that was undoubtedly salutary.
In the end I decided that the model for me in world chaos was that of “As he passed by.” To my understanding, Jesus manifested his humanity by being human among human beings – the ordinary everyday sort of people. He ministered to people where they were. In case of disaster, I will take my chances with others. After all we are all safe, no matter what, and if there is survival then those of us who are still here are in place to minister and proclaim the book.
After all it takes only a few people with special knowledge to place the book and the record and history in some place that is probably safe from nuclear destruction.
I think it is appropriate here to say a little about how one can become convinced of specialness or chosen status. I suppose we all have some of this in us and we do well to be aware of the fact. Let’s say that at an important developmental state, like adolescence, one finds the Urantia Book and makes contact with the early group in Chicago. Greeted as an early believer and as a part of the younger generation who could carry on the faith, it is easy for one who is in the process of sorting out identity to become convinced of a special role, destined for fulfillment. “Role “ is of key significance here because it is just that. It is not a true selfhood, but a specialized mask to be worn during a “performance” of certain functions. The person may never develop a real identify if role-playing is established early. Roles evolve into progressively more grandiose and superhuman evolvements as years go on (for the individual). One response to midlife crisis can be the change to a yet greater persona as a denial of life’s end and the prospect of diminished capacity.
A necessary part of leadership is followership. One does not exist without the other. A common expression is that the leader is indeed created by his followers. This is particularly true in the democratic tradition of our society.
Followers can insulate a leader from the outside world, even to the point of control of the leader’s direction and actions. They can screen input so that an artificially created environment exists. A closed system is created with the leader gaining protection and adulation while the followers receive a sense of power and the excitement of big event associated with the leader. Increments of adulation and compliments spill over from the leader’s successes and they have the fulfilling knowledge that their work has much to do with those successes. Followers can see their own fantasies of leadership and widespread approval met by the surrogate leaders.
There is also the excitement of being on the inside and knowing what others do not. Human beings are very susceptible to the siren song of elitism, and just as there is indeed a need for leaders and teachers, there is ever present the problems of arrogance and egotism that can be engendered.
If history is to be counted now, it is the time when the last original contact person is gone, when a new charismatic leader arises, takes over the function of special revelation and founds an organization. It is also the time when (if the early church serves as a model), there will have to be a definition of who is a believer and who is not. This is usually done with creeds and confessions of faith. Most religious ideas are consolidated at this point from a loosely constructed, highly individualistic amalgamation into a more efficient, hierarchical bureaucracy.
I think we do well to consider historical example and consciously address the issue. So far as I know, no other group of religious pioneers were practically commanded to not get yet another sect going on this planet. Luckily we have some contemporary models of decentralized organization and networking alternatives that offer at least something other than the older rigid forms. Even so, I think it is gong to take our best, sanest, and most creative efforts to implement the revelation well. Some of this is going to involve waiting and patience. In a way we resemble the garden builders who invested generations of preparation toward a goal whose time was not specified.
Another matter for current meditation and conscious decision is the leadership issue. There are and have been many fine examples of leadership among the readers of the Urantia Book. I think we must know that that cannot be taken for granted. We as rank and file protectors of the book need clearly to understand the possibilities of unhealthy directions for the movement.
Since many of us struggle daily to know and do the Father’s will, the door is already open to the claim of special knowledge by one person or another. We need to be careful to what or whom we give obedience. Free will is a precious function insured by Universe law. It should not be lightly given, if we are true and serious believers in the principles of the book.
We of Urantia association have enjoyed our salad days. I think we have (or I have) traversed the innocence of the new optimistic environment where everyone was wonderful because they had read the book and when, no doubt we would all naturally get along together because we knew we were all brothers. There has been much of the extended clan dynamics about the relationships that I have very much enjoyed. Our young, ambitious readers are our children who are going through a phase, which will work out, as they get older, and more experienced. Maybe so and maybe not. I do think it is time for all of us to pay attention and use our heads about the likeliness and spirit of any messages and plans with a purported extra-human origin. We are only beginning to be faced with situations that will demand our care for the Urantia Book, for its protection and continued acceptance. There is after all no divine restriction to human reason and action in planetary life.
This whole affair has caused me to do some very healthy self-examination. I can make no apology for my human uncertainties and obtuseness. That was honest enough. I have decided that I need to be particularly cherishing now of this special epochal event and display some staying power in the times to come. I hope and expect many of us can do that and can continue to serve the times into which we were born.
M. B. H.