What is its significance?
Part I: Introduction--Expectations
"Let There Be Light"--A Cosmic Overview
Part II: Urantia Book Statements that may fill Missing Information Gaps
Part III: Who Wrote The Urantia Papers?
Part IV: Science Topics of Interest in the Urantia Papers
Part V: Contentious Materials
Part VI: An Index of Archaeological and Historical Information found in Part IV of The Urantia Book
The expectations of readers about the content of The Urantia Book are manifold. Some may expect that the revelatory status of the book would be verified by the accuracy of its science content. Others may believe that if only the science community embraced the book, exciting new scientific discoveries would eventuate. Some are emphatic that a revelatory status carries the guarantee that all of its assertions, scientific or otherwise, will be divine truth. Many consider that even a single error nullifies any claim to be a revelation. So what does the book itself say?
On page 24 we read: "The existence of God can never be proved by scientific experiment or by the pure reason of logical deduction. God can be realized only in the realms of human experience...Those who know God have experienced the fact of his presence; such God-knowing mortals hold in their personal experience the only positive proof of the existence of the living God which one human being can offer to another. The existence of God is utterly beyond all possibility of demonstration except for the contact between the God-consciousness of the human mind and the God-presence of the Thought Adjuster that indwells the mortal intellect and is bestowed upon man as the free gift of the Universal Father." And on page 1106: "Reason is the proof of science, faith the proof of religion, logic the proof of philosophy, but revelation is validated only by human experience. Science yields knowledge; religion yields happiness; philosophy yields unity; revelation confirms the experiential harmony of this triune approach to universal reality."
You're on your own? Not necessarily.
The book, then, throws us back upon our own resources. What benefits we derive from it will not come from any "divine dictation" status we may wish to assign to the book. Like everyone else, we are expected to progress via the normal pathways of personal experience with an indwelling God-presence and through conforming our will to the dictates of that presence. And the basis for our decisions will still be an act of pure faith, unsupported by confirmable miracle or any other confirmable supernatural means. In other words, we must not expect to find absolute proof of the revelatory status of the book within its pages by means other than personal experience with our indwelling God-presence. The book terms this our Thought Adjuster and reminds us that Jesus' Spirit of Truth is always available to guide us into all truth. Both are referred to in the Gospel of John where Jesus says: "If a man loves me he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." (John 14:23)
A consistent and logical universe philosophy
What then can we gain from the science and physical cosmology in The Urantia Book? What is its purpose? The book itself tells us: "The fact of religion consists wholly in the religious experience of rational and average human beings. And this is the only sense in which religion can ever be regarded as scientific or even psychological. The proof that revelation is revelation is this same fact of human experience: the fact that revelation does synthesize the apparently divergent sciences of nature and the theology of religion into a consistent and logical universe philosophy, a co-ordinated and unbroken explanation of both science and religion, thus creating a harmony of mind and satisfaction of spirit which answers in human experience those questionings of the mortal mind which craves to know how the Infinite works out his will and plans in matter, with minds, and on spirit." (1105)
Even if some of its science is now outdated, there can be no doubt that The Urantia Book provides us with a synthesis of cosmology, philosophy, and the theology of religion that is unequaled in its extent and scope. It provides us with an overview of our universe careers never before provided on this planet. But it has had to do so within a fixed set of universe laws in respect to revelation. One of these is that the free will of mortal beings such as ourselves is sacrosanct. Not even the indwelling Thought Adjuster, a fragment of God himself, can control or annul our free will.
What is free will? Freedom from threat of retribution?
What constitutes free will? Can I make a free will decision on whether I will, or will not, murder my neighbor if I know for certain that to do so will inevitably be punished by my own execution—if not in this world, then the next? I think the majority of us would say, "No—I only have a truly freewill decision available to me if there is no threat of retribution." The Urantia Book tells me that my eternal universe career is dependent on my free will eventually becoming coincidental with the will of the Father. If I consciously and irrevocably reject the Father's will, my destiny is to become as though I had not been. (37) Knowing that for certain, how can I make a truly freewill decision? Am I not in a similar position as when pondering on whether to murder my neighbor—full knowing that to do so will inevitably bring the death penalty? It seems to me that, as a human being, I can only truly make a freewill decision to comply my will to the will of the Father provided there is room for doubt that I may be under the threat of retribution.
Logically then, if I am to have true free will, I cannot be provided with unequivocal knowledge that to elect not to conform my will to the will of God ultimately will bring about my eventual annihilation. Logically also, neither can I be provided with such knowledge in a revelation that I know carries absolute divine authority. So, in order that our human free will be unencumbered, certain knowledge of unacceptable consequences must be forbidden—our decision to conform to God's will must be made in faith. If this is a universe fact, then, to protect free will, authoritative revelation impinging on free will cannot be provided. There must be room for doubt. Urantia Book readers may perceive that the rebellion of Lucifer makes sense only if he doubted that the eventual consequences would be his own demise. (603) Lucifer, too, had to have free will.
"If we had reason for faith, then it would not be faith at all, it would be logic. Faith can only be unreasonable." (B. Appleyard)
The mandate given to the revelators is outlined on pages 1109-1110. There we find: "The laws of revelation hamper us greatly by their proscription of the impartation of unearned knowledge. Any cosmology...is destined to be outgrown in a very short time. Accordingly, future students of such a revelation are tempted to discard...it...because they discover errors...we are not at liberty to anticipate the scientific discoveries of a thousand years...the cosmology of these revelations is not inspired...." Permitted though is the: "reduction of confusion by the authoritative elimination of error...co-ordination of known or about-to-be-known facts and observations ...restoration of important bits of lost knowledge...the supplying of information which will fill in vital missing gaps in otherwise earned knowledge ...presenting cosmic data in such a manner as to illuminate the spiritual teachings contained in the accompanying revelation."
The question that now arises is how the revelators could fulfill their assignment without contravening the laws of revelation? We need also to be aware of an additional restriction—they had to use the best of human sources wherever possible and they inform us that approximately three thousand such sources were utilized, two thousand being used in Part 4. If we allow that the final drafts of the papers were received in the mid-1930's, and only minor editing allowed subsequently, then we can expect that most science material will be at the mid-1930's level of knowledge and that much of this may contain error. We can also expect that, despite error, it will be put together in such a way as to give us a clear overview of universe cosmology. How could it be otherwise if such a cosmology must: "synthesize the apparently divergent sciences of nature and the theology of religion into a consistent and logical universe philosophy." (1106)
Because of the book's acknowledged error content of its 1930's science material, it would appear to be much more productive for those with a science bent to look for material that might fit the mandate that permits the reduction of confusion, co-ordination of knowledge, restoration of lost knowledge, supplying of information to fill vital missing gaps and the presenting of cosmic data to illuminate the spiritual teachings.
"Let there be light"—A Cosmic Overview
The Urantia Papers were first received at a time when most people had an extremely limited view of the enormous extent of the universe and no knowledge of its purposes. Even today, we have yet to come to terms with the knowledge that our planet is but one of billions of planets that may be inhabited by beings similar to ourselves. In well-informed scientific circles many people hold the view that we may be alone in the universe.
And behold! There was light
The Urantia Papers provide us with a cosmic viewpoint that not only dispels our loneliness but also provides us with a detailed concept of an adventurous and exciting universe career spanning all eternity. In doing so, it provides a reason to find value in our present circumstances whatever they may be, and an incentive to make spiritual progress in this our earthly life (including the knowledge of how to do so). Further, it provides the knowledge to eliminate the fear of death because of its promise of an ongoing and highly desirable existence in which unselfish service to our fellow beings motivates us, protects us from boredom, and assures us of continuing worthwhile and meaningful activity.
It makes little difference if, in this picture of our potential cosmic careers, some of the physical details of the material cosmos provided in the Papers are based upon outdated mid-1930's knowledge. For example, the overall picture, as it specifically affects us, would be virtually unaltered if a Big Bang view of creation, perhaps 15-20 billion years ago, turned out to be correct (but it probably won't).
This work will concentrate upon those items of scientific knowledge imparted in the Urantia Papers that appear to come within those categories defined above as being "permitted." Even though some of these appear to be "unearned" or "prophetic," it will always be found that someone somewhere will find a way to avoid either classification. The inevitability of this reaction is beautifully described by author Bryan Appleyard, in his book entitled Understanding the Present (Pan Books Ltd., London, 1992). In researching material for this work, Appleyard interviewed prominent academics in fields such as— philosophy of religion, zoology, history of science, physics, mathematics, etc. Included were such notable figures as Roger Penrose, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. The book covers a wide range of issues, and is well worth reading by anyone wishing to get a layman's grasp of subjects such as quantum theory, logic, computers and their limitations, and artificial intelligence.
On being open-minded
Appleyard works as a newspaper columnist, a job that requires him to interview protagonists holding opposing views upon many of the issues fortuitously related to science material mentioned in the Urantia Papers. He states that he feels obliged to make up his own mind, hence argues at length with the protagonists: "The pattern is always the same," he says, "no matter what the issue. Each side advances arguments arising from a basic conviction one way or another. But the arguments themselves are almost always irrelevant, a distraction designed to persuade but not really believed in as such. What is believed in is the basic conviction, one way or another...the beliefs will be held because of the irrational demands of temperament, upbringing and self-interest and they will, therefore, be irreconcilable." The author cites an interview with Stephen Hawking, who, in a recent book, had used an important quotation from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, in order to trivialize modern philosophy. Appleyard told Hawking that the quotation was taken out of context, and, read correctly, had a quite different meaning with immense and profound implications. Appleyard says, "But he (Hawking) simply would not listen. ‘I do not think so' was his only response."
Fact, faith, prejudice, or obsession?
Appleyard's observations concerning the opinionated intransigence of human nature will undoubtedly apply to many who dedicate themselves to debunking the revelatory status of The Urantia Book. But it will also apply to fundamentalist readers of the book who are dedicated to upholding its status as infallible divine truth.
The book itself tells us that our acceptance of all or part of its text as revelatory cannot be other than an act of faith. A thorough study of what Appleyard says should inform opponents of the book that their opposition is also an act of faith, rather than an act of knowing.
On that pessimistic note let us press on to enumerate observations upon what appears to be prophetic information in matters of science and cosmology in the Papers. In presenting this work, there will be occasion to mention omissions and shortcomings in the recently published critique by Martin Gardner entitled Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery (Prometheus Books, 1995). Despite his knowledge of what presents as unimpeachable statistical evidence for multiple authorship of the Urantia Papers (documented later), Gardner has persisted with his claim that the Papers are the result of editing by Dr W. S. Sadler (and perhaps others) of materials emanating from the mind of Wilfred Kellogg, ostensibly during sleep. Since he is the author of a number of books, Gardner should be aware—undoubtedly is aware—of the enormous amount of research necessary to produce the wealth of scientific, archaeological, anthropological, historical, sociological-historical, biblical-historical, theological, and philosophical materials in the Urantia Papers.
The Urantia Papers, revelatory or not, are a work of intense and arduous scholarship, beautifully written, a work that would require many years of toil for even a gifted scholar. There is no possible way that such a work could derive directly from the subconscious mind-meanderings of a sleeping subject. The statistical work already mentioned has provided evidence that Dr Sadler was not a major author.
In a short acknowledgment—but not a whit of further information—Gardner identifies a Seventh Day Adventist, Iola Martin, as the source of his speculation that Wilfred Kellogg was the "sleeping subject." In a letter to me, dated May 30, 1993 (original available), Gardner states, "I do think both Lena (Sadler's wife) and Bill Jr. (their son) had a hand in the writing. Wilfred had no skill whatever in writing, although his wife Anna collaborated with Lena on a book about nursing."
Bill Sadler Jr. is known to have prepared the "Table of Contents" for The Urantia Book, but there appears to be no evidence whatsoever that he participated in the writing. Wilfred is acknowledged to have been incapable of writing the material supposedly pouring forth from his subconscious sleeping mind. Statistical evidence shows that Dr Sadler could only have contributed minor editing. What then is left?
Some alternative hypotheses
The article in this survey on archaeological information from Part 4 demonstrates dedicated scholarship by its author(s) in seeking out the names and locations of villages and towns in first century Palestine and other parts of the Roman world. More than one hundred and fifty items are catalogued, again demonstrating that the Urantia Papers cannot be the subconscious babblings of a slumbering human mind. If these Papers are not what they purport to be, then they are the work of a group of erudite men and/or women, probably all distinguished scholars. The difficulty with this latter hypothesis is the complete lack of evidence for any such group in the face of recognition that the successful maintenance of secrecy regarding their identity and participation would have been an exceedingly difficult achievement. Added to that, the high idealism demonstrated in the text of the Papers, together with the dedication to honesty and truth advocated therein by their authors, makes it difficult to comprehend how the Urantia Papers could have been the secret work of a group deliberately engaging in a conspiratorial deception.
Personally I am not overly concerned with who wrote the Papers nor how they got here. My interest is in the truth to be discovered therein. For me, these papers contain higher spiritual, theological, philosophical, and cosmic truth than any other work I have ever read. Again for me, that is a revelation. In my mind and with the passage of time, the science content, evolutionary history, etc. in the Urantia Papers have diminished in importance. What has become paramount is their revelation of the true nature of the Universal Father and what that implies for my present life on this planet. A long time prior to finding the Urantia Papers, I had already learned the basics from experience with dedicated and forward looking Christians, as well as from Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu literature, and from the essence of the Fourth Epochal Revelation that many Christians have discerned by reading between the lines of the New Testament. The Urantia Papers go forward from the highest truths I had previously encountered, and also present a new dimension of breathtaking enlightenment regarding what lies beyond our present stage of mortal existence.
I believe After examining logically conceivable alternatives, the hypothesis remaining is that the Urantia Papers are what their authors say they are—a revelatory gift to the people of this planet designed to elucidate, interpret, and augment previously revealed knowledge relating to our individual cosmic destiny, and to hasten social progress towards a planetary destiny which the authors nominate as the Age of Light and Life. That is what I conclude, but with the knowledge that this is an act of personal faith. The decision others make is up to themselves.
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship