That Outrageous Urantia Book

A musing on the eclectic revelation.

I appreciate the Urantia Teachings first and foremost as a religionist, but nextmost as a theologian. As a religionist, the UB offers me a vocabulary for faithful living, and inspires fellowship, courage, and forbearance.

Its call to faith is profoundly abetted by an elaborate but exquisite, consistent and complete theology. Admittedly derived from the cream of human discovery, the Urantia Teachings' theology harmonizes banks of different theological approaches which each alone had satisfied certain theological questions while invoking disturbing others. The progressive Deity who makes demands of suffering and growth is here in all Supreme Majesty, full of sharing and oneness in our progression of perfecting, through all joys and pains. Here also, though, is that Original Father, beyond time and space, Our Creator-Parent and Paradise Destiny, the Eternal. Each are One, of course, as are we. Evil is explained without Pandoras. A robust theology filled with passion.

So these, a personal religion and the satisfaction of highly refined questions of cosmic philosophy (giving rise, of course to new questions — indeed, whole new seas for inquiry) endear the Urantia Teachings to me forever. I had asked, and they answered.

But... when presenting this teaching to the unititated, I and many others go to great pains to point out its worthy, ideals-oriented, faith-grounded values, or draw upon its magnificent and sweeping portrayal of Master Jesus, consistent in spirit with the rest of the Urantia Teachings without departing critically from Gospel sources of historic credibility. All fine and grand, but if this should ever actually induce a listener to obtain and read a Urantia Book, there are many other teachings which will seem so utterly outrageous as to be laughed to scorn, if taken out of the impressive and integrated whole of the Teachings' vast cosmic theology.

I found my way into the UB's depths, first by intrigue of certain hints about its cosmology derived from writings by my brother Larry based on the Teachings, co-ordinating with those late-night in-depth sessions of contemplation of the Origins and Destiny of time-space to which 1970s liberal-arts collegians were inclined. Later, however, I found myself actually drawn into the text deep in the History of Urantia section, seeking what this huge, strange work had to say about the origins of humanity.

The later-mammal pre-human development, while just a few pages of generalization, gave me as clear a comprehension of the stages of physical and mental evolution as anything I had ever gleaned from anthropology or biology. Other than that the whole book is attributed to personalities from beyond humanity (and the very idea of having supermortal reportage of very specific prehistoric developments is incredible), the given depiction of the appearance (and, by the way, definition) of the first two humans is entirely reasonable.

The first two human beings, Andon and Fonta as the Teachings dubbed them, appeared essentially as science and psychology might predict — a slightly new capacity of brain and mind in already-erect, tool-using primates gives the potential for these twin sports to make the quantum leap to human self-awareness. The Urantia Teachings embrace adaptive evolution punctuated by sudden progressive mutations, which theory, as far as I know, has withstood the decades since the book's reputed origin in 1934-1935 and its publication in 1955. This may not comport with some or even majorly-accepted theory, especially in the "beneficient monster" aspects, but in the whole given context of the Teachings' evolutionary depiction, the veracity of the theory is not only made more reasonable by virtue of its completeness, it also comports yet today with scientific data. So here we have the true parents of humanity, without resort to absurdities of the like of those religionists who would promote their ideas of a young earth or fiat creation which have no basis in bone or stone.

But all this believable reasonableness comes dressed with the fantastic. Andon and Fonta, we are told, sought to send greetings to us from the afterlife, and this is reported along with the tongue-in-cheek deadpan-delivery observation that permission to transmit greetings was wisely denied them. (I hope I need not, but just in case shall, belabor the irony, that we were implicitly greeted anyway, just one of many examples of the gentle and hearty humor which one can find in the teachings — whether intended or not, one rarely could say for sure, but they are subtle yet hilarious.)

"Then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like...." goes the old song. No sooner have we had the ancient and antiquated fable of Genesis origins replaced with a new and scientific-age-worthy myth of Andon and Fonta than they turn right around and say Adam and Eve were nonetheless historic beings, and the Garden of Eden was a real place, indeed a city, some 35,000 years ago as the Cro-Magnon flies.

Adam and Eve were nothing less than literal material beings from the agency of the government of God, specifically tinkered to be genetically compatible with evolved mortals, dispatched to our world to be genetic uplifters, to hasten toward biologic improvement what might take practically forever in natural breeding. The Genesis tale is seen to be more than a fabrication, a historical distortion, even a remarkably enduring report of transactions of that ancient revelation. The Genesis threads of Adam and Eve's creation we can now see are what might reasonably be expected to survive, after thirty-five millenia, of the witnessing of their being "reassembled" (beam us down, Scottie!) after transit to our globe from their wondrous garden worlds unspecified light-years away. Adam walked the already-built walls of the city prepared for his arrival and "named the animals," impressing the natives that he had already mastered the local parlance. The Eve-bitten apple is a tragedy of default in their mission to us.

It might be easier to laugh off the idea of Adam and Eve as eight-foot-tall, violet-skinned, slightly-luminous manufactured demigods if they didn't fit so perfectly and critically in the intricate cosmology-theology of the Urantia Teachings on the one hand, and on the other the evidence of significant biological and cultural transformations deriving from the Mesopotamian at approximately the period given for the development and dispersals of the Adamic infusion. The glow-in-the-dark alien uplifters fit frighteningly well with pre-Sumerian indicators. The Myth bonds seamlessly to History.

Once you've accepted one or two outrageous precepts, there's not a lot to stop the cascade of outlandish possibilities. I was inspired to write tonight by an Economist article (1997 March 1, page 82) concerning the icy moon of Jupiter, Europa. Such globes are a topic of considerable speculation among some students of the Urantia Papers, because of the teasing revelation that there is a world of material mortals alleged to be close to ours in space. Some suggest this only means nearby stars, but others believe the "nearness" used in the text blatantly implies that we are not the only mortals in this solar system! Moreover, the physical mortal type given for these extraterrestrial neighbors is that of the "non-breathers." While the exact meaning of the various "breathing" types is not all that clear, this specifically rules out the likes of Mars, called a sub-breather type environment, or Venus, described as more suited to superbreathers. Speculation ranges from the fringes of Mercury to the more likely moons of Jupiter. Most intriguing, of course, is just why divine revelators would let slip this particular tidbit — certainly to inform, but also in anticipation of imminent first contact? While there is an entire paper on "Government on a neighboring planet," that is a world described as being similar to ours in development and, so I gather, a world only as "neighboring" as within our local star cluster, not our solar system. These nearby nonbreathers are another world, and while one may infer that they have reached the stage of human will we have not a hint whether they are, as it were, stone age, or far advanced.

As a reviewer said decades ago, it's tempting to dismiss the whole thing as nonsense, but nonsense is rarely so well-written, or so reasonable. For every outrageous addition of incredible myth, there are a dozen threads delicately and credibly tying the myth to reality. It occurs to me that this acts as scaffolding to the building of the tower of poetic appreciation from which we ultimately take the bungee leap of faith. Each bizarre revelation further loosens our feet from misperceptions and prejudices of the dissembling mind and then with its consistency in context and equation with experience, propels us to the brink where doubt no longer thwarts acceptance, and the coherent mind prevails. If this or that absurdity can be made believable, we have been trained in being believing without abandoning reason. What is more incredible, to modern skepticism, than the very precept of Deity at all? Only the most ludicrous, impossible outrage of all — that existence is. To be is to wonder, and be wonderful.

Links open in separate tab or window.^

UP 49.The Inhabited Worlds
UP 62.The Dawn Races of Early Man
UP 72.Government on a Neighboring Planet
UP 73. The Garden of Eden