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The Clayton Messages: Test or Tragedy?
President Paul Snider's letter to the General Council regarding
Grimsley war messages
May 24, 1984

For many months the primary energies of the Urantia movement have been occupied by news of “messages” issuing from Clayton, California.  And because of their nature and authorship something like a civil war of the spirit has been set loose – dividing, provoking, and polarizing the movement. 

The “messages” purport to say that World War III is inevitable, short of supermortal intervention, and that the “leadership” of the Urantia movement should begin to prepare for it “at an accelerated rate.”  We have been told that this communication has originated among beings invisible to us, and has been given to us by the direct authorization of the highest supermortal executive personality on the planet.  And further, we have been led to infer that the communication has been given to us by means of psychic (clairaudient) contact through a chosen person who has stated that he is a member of the “Reserve Corps of Destiny.”

Chicago, we are told, will not be a very safe place to be in the times of the soon-coming war.  It would be wiser, the “messages” suggest, moving the headquarters functions of the movement to Clayton, but without making the move openly visible – 533 Diversey Parkway would continue as a “front” to disguise the fact of the move.

As might be expected, the immediate reaction was swift and passionate.  Telephone lines grew hot with discussion.  Study Groups were disrupted.  Long letters and analyses thundered through the movement.  The most vivid rumors about Clayton began to circulate, some repeatable, some that should never be repeated.  Quickly the movement polarized.  Fierce battle lines formed on both sides of the issue.  Many of those who believed instantly, or who were caught up in the group hysteria reaction that followed, spent substantial sums flying to Clayton, moving to Clayton, selling homes, buying real estate “in the north”, or otherwise planning “escape routes.”  Lifelong friendships fractured, warm relationships cooled, spiritual brothers and sisters became estranged.  And in the no-man’s-land of hesitation and indecision, hundreds of Urantians suddenly found themselves “homeless”, torn up inside, wandering like refugees in abject confusion.

Whatever one’s point of view with regard to the validity of the “messages”, there was no escaping the resulting discussions, long-distance phone calls, questions from frantic citizens of the movement, or the numerous analyses of events.  For a while it began to appear that many, at least temporarily, had abandoned the search for God, and had begun to focus their lives toward a search for the next “message”.

It is now late spring and a grim atmosphere lingers through the movement like stale battle smoke, reeking with the stench of ungodliness and ego.  But now more than ever before it is time for all of us to take heart and be of good cheer, and for a profound and powerful reason:  Beneath all of the rubble of the confusion and passion there is within the personal grasp of each of us a way forward:  Jesus’ simple message of hope, comfort, and reassurance – His life saving, world saving, universe saving gospel of the kingdom.  And it is the only pathway through the rubble.

What Happened? – What Actually Took Place?

Intelligent discussion of the issues cannot begin until we attempt to understand how all this came to be, what happened, what actually took placer.  There is no consensus and cannot be, simply because the ability to perceive is directly linked to spiritual maturity.

The way Urantians address this issue tends to fall into three general patterns with regard to how the nature and the magnitude of the event is viewed.  And from each perception pattern there appears to be a consistent form of response linked to that perception.

These are the three perception patterns, as I understand them:

Perception 1:  The Clayton Messages Are True

Jesus warned (page 1,490)  “Wars are going to become more and more devastating until they become almost racially suicidal.”

The messages came through a member of the Reserve Corps of Destiny, a person who is trusted, responsible, and highly spiritual, one who has devoted his adult life to no other purpose than to work for the progress of the fifth epochal revelation – and we ignore this sincere warning at our peril.

Leaders of the Urantia movement are more important than other religionists, and thus it is natural that special care should be taken to ensure that they are saved first from the holocaust.  They have a special mission to perform.

Everybody who has actually traveled to Clayton and heard the messages firsthand has come back a believer.

We should recognize clairaudient phenomena because it is (sic)  “in keeping with the technique used to present The Urantia Book.”

World events suggest the imminent danger of nuclear war.  The current state of tension between the United States and Russia has got the nuclear trigger fingers itchy on both sides.

Man has never invented a weapon, which has not subsequently been used for destructive warfare.

Chicago would certainly be “hit city” of the first magnitude in the event of nuclear war.

And besides, the scenario goes, what harm does it do to prepare?  Isn’t this a good idea anyway?

This perception seems  to be shared by a small and distinct minority whose inner core members have solidified into a minor cult, complete with guru and a compelling mystery.  Cult members and sympathizers appear to have placed their complete faith in the cult leader without attempting to separate the content or substance of the “messages” from the person.

Members and sympathizers tend to place the cult in the mainstream of the Urantia outreach strategy, with Urantia Brotherhood drifting in the brackish waters of lethargy and lack of commitment.

In general, those who share this perception tend to blur the distinctions between Urantia Brotherhood and the Family of God Foundation and its associated enterprises.  The two organizations are seen as two arms of the revelation reaching out to achieve the same mission, and with identical objectives, differing only in the degree of aggressiveness of outreach philosophy and method or organization.

Perception 2:  Mental Breakdown in a Beloved Leader

The “messages” are not valid, but simply reflect a mental breakdown in a beloved leader who has for many years worked tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice to carry out the mission of the fifth epochal revelation.  Dedication and overwork finally got to him.

The “agent” of the “messages” is a person greatly admired throughout the movement; one who is perceived by many to be of a highly spiritual nature, one that could do no wrong, a brilliant personality.

The “agent” has confirmed the rumor that he is a member of the Reserve Corps of Destiny.

Whether we believe it or not, we should never attempt to discredit another person’s “religious” experience.  What one believes is, after all, a spiritual matter, not subject to the judgment of others.

This is a fairly harmless temporary aberration, which will soon go away, and then we will all be brothers again.  Unity is our primary objective.  Jesus would not put down a brother who was simply suffering from the consequences of exhaustion.

What’s al the shouting about?  Too many people are over-reacting.  This is just a simple matter of differences in point of view.

Our response to this event should be love, not outrage; healing, not amputation.  W should not conduct a “witch hunt” or attempt to “excommunicate” anyone or “throw our brothers out of the synagogue.”  We should attach no stigma to those who believe in the “messages” and simply follow their leader.  We should not do anything.

Let’s just get back to “business as usual” and quiet things down.  And besides – who knows – what if he’s right?

A moderately large majority of Urantians seems to have formed perceptions along these lines.  And one of their principal associated concerns is that the cult should not become isolated, separated from the Brotherhood.  Such a separation would increasingly change the complexion of the cult away from outreach and toward reclusiveness, “defensiveness”, and outcast postures, which could lead to reckless and immoderate behavior.

In general, those who believe the Clayton “messages” were the product of a mental breakdown, and that our approach should be one of healing and unity (the “soft” perception) tend to view Urantia Brotherhood essentially as a spiritual organization, and see only the warmth, the mercy, the compassion, the tenderness and love in Jesus’ character as the central inspirational fact in our existence as his followers.  The issues involved are thus seen as matters of “religion” or “spirit” which transcend the domain of human judgment.  The swift and decisive action of Urantia Foundation in separating itself from the cult is viewed with alarm and perceived as arbitrary and un-brotherly.

Perception 3:  Attempt To Seize Control of the Urantia Movement

The “messages” have no validity.  There is no imprint of supermortal origin either in their substance or method of delivery.

We must assess what has happened.  Assessment is an ordinary function of daily living, a vital component of wisdom, and something wholly separate from judgment, which belongs to higher realms.

What has taken place is not an uprising of soul, but rather an uprising of ambition for power, a calculated and not-too-cunning attempt to seize effective control of the leadership of the Urantia movement without the disciplines and limitations imposed by an appointing body or elective office.

The leadership of Urantia Brotherhood (executive Committee) was carefully baited with an easy, acceptable “message” which most of the committee members would agree with.  And when the bait was taken, the bigger “power transfer messages” were set forth in an attempt to plant the hook deep into the jaw of the movement. 

There was a definite “blitzkrieg” quality in the way the attack was launched.  And the centerpiece in this strategy was a form letter sent to 80 Urantia leaders throughout the United States and in other parts of the world, warning of the close approach of nuclear war and inviting the recipient to Clayton to hear it all

Firsthand.  Each letter appears to have been typed by a word processing machine to make it appear that it was a personal, private communication.

What has, in fact, been revealed is not the imminence of WW III, but rather that a cult is now fully formed and thickly tangled in the roots of the Brotherhood, and set upon a course of weird and contradictory mystical leadings.  It is quite possible that on a “slow news day” the actions of the cult could draw the storms lightning of press attention to the movement prematurely and for the wrong reason, complete with splashy “Jim Jones” comparisons.

It is not difficult to visualize the grisly cartoon the enemies of the revelation would draw:  A monastery-type building with steel-shuttered windows and steel bars across the door, surrounded by barbed wire, and protected by gun turrets bristling from everywhere – and the door is cautiously opened a crack and peeking out from the darkness within is a little fellow called “Urantia” with a fierce German shepherd beside him … proclaiming his desire to transform the world on the basis of a faith that has driven out all fear.

We should take a clear, firm, unequivocal stand that leaves no room for doubt that Urantia Brotherhood has disassociated itself from the Clayton syndrome.

Unity is our second priority.  If this is a shakeout, so be it.  Our first priority now and forever is to get our heads straight and get a very clear grasp of what Jesus has inspired us to do – to become illuminated by God, not blinded by public relations, to move ever forward in the Godward direction with all the energy we possess by means of worship of the Father, prayer to the Son, and service in cooperation with the eternal ministry of the Infinite Spirit.

Amputation is a necessity, but always by means of due process, never means of lynch mobs.  Healing comes later; we have to heal what’s left.  Cult leaders, members, and sympathizers must be removed from positions of leadership within the Brotherhood and at the earliest feasible moment, for the simple and very powerful reason that they have demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment as leaders.  This action must transcend feelings of affection and even close friendships.  We could no more retain these individuals in leadership positions than we could elect “Moonies” or any other cult followers to similar positions.  Once a cult is defined, then the personal feelings of love for the individuals who have chosen to follow a mortal leader must be put away by our dedication to retaining the integrity of the movement for the centuries of work still ahead of us.  This is a time for steady hands at the wheel.

Taking no stand, adopting a “business as usual” attitude, would be the most effective form of support we could offer the Clayton cult.  A do-nothing approach would serve to legitimize what is going on and leave the movement gravely weakened.  Without a clear inner core of spiritual strength - -which includes the strength to make hard decisions – the Urantia movement will be unable to function effectively in society to carry forward with its mission.

Urantia Foundation was correct in taking the swift and decisive actions it took to protect its integrity and to foster the true purposes of the revelation.

As the months have progressed it has become increasingly clear that the great majority of Urantians who have been confronted by the Clayton events have reacted with a point of view that fits within the general framework of this perception.  Week by week, month by month, those who were temporarily confused by the gravity of what they heard have come to understand the nature of events without the terrible overlay of fear.  For some, the further reaction has been to discontinue active involvement in the movement.

Those who see the Clayton “messages” as a crude grasp for worldly power, and who have adopted an “amputation and healing” approach (the “hard” perception), tend to view Urantia Brotherhood essentially as a functional organization, and see in the divine symmetry of Jesus’ character an uncompromising strength and steadiness of purpose along with the love and mercy and warm compassion for every being of the realm.  Nothing, even well meaning friends, would stand in the way of achievement of His mission or bend Him from his purpose.

This perception views Urantia Brotherhood neither as a church, nor as a “synagogue”, nor as a religion, nor as a spiritual brotherhood per se, but simply as a social and fraternal functional organization with a deeply important responsibility.  The issues involved are thus seen as matters of organization, not as matters of spirit.

The Way It Looks From Here

If nothing else the Clayton experience has quickened the whole movement, ripped off the cloak of comfort and complacency that had begun to fit us so snugly.  Whether we have marched in or been pushed, we have all entered the arena of decision.  There is no neutral ground on this issue.  The dividing line is razor sharp and on either side there are only varying degrees of agreement or disagreement.

We should welcome the test.  It is only by means of such invigorating tests that we can ever more clearly chisel out our identity as a band of brothers and sisters united in a common cause.  Nobody ever told us it would be easy, certainly not The Urantia Book.

What we are dealing with is not simply a difference of opinion or point of view.  At stake is nothing less than the shaping and direction of the Urantia movement for a long time to come.  The issues are not spiritual, but organizational.  The only spiritual issues related to how we deal with each other while we try to work our way out of this mess.

As I see it there are two central issues:

Whether any person can establish a position of authority that transcends the authority of the Urantia Book; and

Whether the Urantia revelation will unfold in human events in a sound and steady way, or whether by willing linkage to guru-oriented cult phenomena the Urantia movement (and by association of inference The Urantia Book itself) will repeatedly become tinged with a dangerous mysticism.

There is now and ever will be only one leader of the Urantia movement, and that is Michael of Nebadon under whose majestic symbol we serve.  I believe the Brotherhood rejects guru-ism.

I believe that Meredith Sprunger and Martin Myers (among others) correctly perceived both the nature and the magnitude of the Clayton events and acted with appropriate vigor to protect what we all hold precious.

In a collective sense we have been stunned into a temporary period of inactivity, but the time for progress has come.  We must get on with the work.  The troubling experience we have passed through has enabled us to affirm what we are not.  I believe the time has come to formulate a renewed dedication to our basic purposes – who we are, what we are, and where we are going.  There is tragedy ahead only to the extent to which we fail to think through and grasp in our heart or hearts that with God all things are possible; without God nothing is worthwhile.

The Urantia revelation was not born after a thousand years of preparation simply to fizzle to a sputtering end in Clayton, California.  We are alive at a great turning point in the history of the world and have been greatly privileged to take part in it.  I believe we have a job to do and a great destiny to fulfill and if we remain steady in spirit we can do it.

I salute the God within you.

Paul Snider