Letter from the Executive Committe to William Hales
Regarding concerns about the Publications Committe history project
July 31, 1981
Mr. William Hales
815 Sumac Lane
Winnetka, IL 60093
The Executive Comittee of Urantia Brotherhood has requested that I respond to your memoranda of November 18, 1980, and May 29, 1981, concerning the slide presentation "A History of the Urantia Movement" prepared by the Publications Committee.
We welcome and appreciate your comments and we share the essence of your feelings about the undesirability of an official history of the movement. We agree that the teachings of The Urantia Book cannot be authenticated by humans, but can only be verified by the spirit within the individual reader. Further, we are unanimously opposed to anything which will tie the movement to specific personalities, or tend to create saints, shrines or holy relics.
But the Urantia movement is faced with a serious practical problem. There seems to be within every new reader an innate and powerful need to satisfy certain basic, threshold questions about the origins of the book and the type of people associated with it. The material in The Urantia Book is almost too good to be true. What is desired is not authentication, but rather some indication of credibility. Those privileged to have been associated with the revelation from its very beginning cannot know from experience the importance or nature of this need. It is a very human trait, going far beyond mere curiosity. It is a "need to know" which is deeply imbedded in a society in which deception is common in business, politics and religion, and in a culture which teaches "let the buyer beware." It is not so much for details as it is a need for assurance that intelligent, responsible people take the whole thing seriously. It takes relatively little to supply this need in most new readers.
This appetite for assurance of credibility exists, and it will be satisfied from one source or another, whether or not we like it. If it were possible to deny new readers access to all answers, undoubtedly the the Executive Committee would support this. But answers are available; and if we refuse to provide minimal answers, someone else will provide them in greater detail. There will come a day when the origin of the book is so deeply imbedded in the irretrievable past that a search for it would be fruitless, and when the type of people associated with the book is so obvious and well known that no search is required to learn this, but that day has not yet arrived. At this time, we face a different problem.
Both the origins of the book and the identity of those associated with the early movement are known to many people, and much can be learned by diligent personal inquiry. Oral histories of the origin of the book and of the people surrounding it are developing in the form of legend. Some are remarkably accurate. Others are shockingly inaccurate. Both types should be stopped if we can reasonably do so.
There is a problem of even greater proportions we wish to avoid. In order to supply this demand for information, there have been efforts (as yet unsuccessful) to write, publish and sell a history of the origins of the book and movement. One effort, in particular, has been temporarily halted. Its principal harm is that the author is well informed and a good writer, his story is entirely credible, and it may be fairly accurate.
The problem faced by the Executive Committee is this: how can it provide sufficient information to serious truth-seekers about both The Urantia Book and the Urantia movement to satisfy their threshold appetite for assurance of credibility without, at the same time, tying the movement to personalities and risk creating saints, shrines and holy relics? To resolve this problem, the Publications Committee undertook the difficult and sensitive task of putting together a visual and oral presentation which would meet this basic human need without at the same time tying the movement to personalities and places. This would require that they play down the personalities involved, play up the book and its teachings, and show that its contents can be verified only by the individual reader. By employing such a presentation, we hoped to put an end to the traditions which are developing, and to undermine the market for a clandestine written history.
The project was undertaken with some misgivings. As the project developed, the substance of each of the points you have raised in your memoranda was raised and discussed by the Executive Committee. The drafts were modified to preserve the anonymity of the early human personalities, to stress the spirit-origin of the book, and to focus upon credibility rather than details. The carefully structured "history" prepared by the Publications Committee was considered to be a constructive, affirmative and considerate way to respond to real human need. As developed, it responds to the need for threshold information, yet focuses upon the teachings of the book and the individual responses to such teachings rather than upon the personalities involved. The only name mentioned In connection with the origins of the book is that of Dr. Sadler. Although the final draft was not approved unanimously, it was supported by a substantial majority of the Executive Committee. There was no objection to any specific wording.The presentation, as it stands, is neither an historical document nor an official history; rather it is an "ad hoc" vehicle to respond to recognized need, designed to provide only enough information to reinforce a pre-existing hope that the book is credible, and to dispel fears about the type of people who may be involved in the movement which may have arisen as a result of its unfortunate association with the occult. The prosentation is closely held, as it is shown only at Brotherhood Functions. It is shown only by a Publications Committee member. The script is not published.
You raise the question of identifying the contributors who financed the first printing of the book. It would take a very sophisticated and well-informed observer to connect people in some early pictures of Urantia activities with the obscure reference to "contributors" in the Declaration of Trust and conclude that there was any relationship between the two. Certainly, no individual is suggested as a contributor. It is doubtful that anyone on the Executive Committee made such a connection, as the matter was not mentioned.
On a broader plane, you are correct that the purpose and function of Urantia Brotherhood are to promote the study and dissemination of the teachings of The Urantia Book. And you are further correct that the book is designed to bring God and man closer to each other. But not by noving God; rather, by moving man. Perhaps the Brotherhood's only reason for being is to facilitate man's God-ward journey by all practical means. This seems to require something more than to hawk books and exhort buyers to read then.
How does one promote the study and disseminate the teachings of The Urantia Book? We certainly do not have all the answers! But we try. There are valid, sincere, and strong differences of opinion among the members of the Executive Committee, just as there are among the General Councilors, as to those things which should and should not be done to fulfill our trust. In the final analysis, the matter is left to human judgment, which is fallible, and to individual conscience, which is unfathomable. Our action in producing the "history" represents our best judgment as to one way in which we can promote the study and disseminate the teachings of the book.
There is nothing more challenging than a mystery, and nothing more mysterious than that which is obviously known by someone, but covered up by silence. We believe this presentation cuts away just enough of the mystery and misinformation about The Urantia Book and the movement to satisfy the basic human need for orientation, and frees new readers to consider its teachings unencumbered by the baggage of doubt and suspicion raised by a curtain of secrecy and a mass of misinformation. If we are correct, we are facilitating the work of the spirit, helping man Godward, and promoting the teaching by using this presentation.
We always welcome your comments, observations, and suggestions. This letter is not to convince you of our opinion or to criticize yours. Rather, it is to point out that we have considered the important matters which you raise. The fact that we may reach a different result does not lessen our esteem for your views. We know that you will also respect our views as sincere.
Thank you, again, for your continued interest and contributions.
Duane L. Faw, Member