There have been many discussions on the focus of our outreach. The text or the message? The book or the teachings? This has been debated for a while and some have concluded that it’s not either/or, but both. I believe it can be both but not necessarily both at the same time. The question needs to be rephrased. The question should be: which comes first, the book or the message? It should not be both at the same time because one can be counterproductive to the other. If we try to be truth revealers and book promoters simultaneously, there will be a fragmentation of purpose. The message of the book is the substance, the material book is the shadow. (Although some materialists will say the opposite; that the book is the substance, as it is made of tangible matter, and the message the shadow, since the message is non-material. However, from the spiritual standpoint, the ideas and concepts are the true substance.)
As The Urantia Book states, and I paraphrase here, put the substance first, and the shadow will follow. Putting the shadow (the book) in the fore is to promote a religion of authority, a religion about the book. Putting the substance (the message) in the fore is to promote a religion of experience, a religion of the book.
The UB tells us that one of the mistakes of Christianity was that it became a religion about Jesus rather than a religion of Jesus. This religion about Jesus became one of idolizing and worshipping Jesus, the person, his life and crucifixion, rather than studying and living the religion of his teachings. Was it either/or, for Christianity, or did they do both? Looking at history it’s fairly clear that they tried to do both but they put Jesus’ teachings in the background, with his death and crucifixion in the front. It is no wonder that the UB says the Christian institution became largely a religion about Jesus, and not of Jesus. Jesus, the person, became a superstar while his teachings were turned into a footnote. It became a religion of authority, and not a religion of experience. And historically, Christianity has a checkered record, with many good deeds done, but also colored by intolerance, persecution, crusades and inquisitions. Are we to follow in Christianity’s footsteps? Unfortunately, I see the Urantia movement leaning towards becoming more about the book rather than of the book. If this does not change, the revelation of promoting a religion of experience may fail.
So, should the forefront of outreach be about The Urantia Book, or of The Urantia Book? With the book in the fore, the movement lends itself to becoming a religion of authority, which is counterproductive to a religion of experience. Inversely, putting the primary focus on establishing a religion of experience (which Jesus himself recommends) will encourage people to read the book as a supplement to the inner realization of sonship with God. The front should not be both, but one. It should be of the book. The substance should come first.
In trying to encourage the religion of experience, the problem is that so many people are drawn to religions of authority:
“Until the human race progresses to the level of a higher and more general recognition of the realities of spiritual experience, large numbers of men and women will continue to show a personal preference for those religions of authority which require only intellectual assent, in contrast to the religion of the spirit, which entails active participation of mind and soul in the faith adventure of grappling with the rigorous realities of progressive human experience.” [155.5.8]
But that doesn’t mean we should pander to the many who prefer religions of authority. Rather, we should try to draw those few who are truth seekers into the religion of experience. If we try to do both at the same time, people will put off the difficult process of achieving religious experience and gravitate toward making the book a religion of authority which is much easier. It’s like putting both a dish of ice cream and a plate of spinach in front of a child. Which one do you think the child will choose to eat? If you want them to eat spinach, it is often best to not put it next to the ice cream, but mention the treat as a dessert they can have if they eat the spinach. It’s the same way with any spiritual book; discuss the concepts and messages first, which is the main dish, and mention the book as a reward for those who eagerly partook of the discussion, if it seems appropriate.
Putting the book rather than the message in the front tends to make it a religious authority and is counterproductive because it just makes people replace a traditional religion of authority based on the Bible, Koran, Lotus Sutra, or whatever, to a new religion of authority based on The Urantia Book. I see it all around me, even long time UB readers I know use TUB admittedly as scripture, even when the book itself discourages this. And so many people mistakenly put the concentric circles emblem in the same category with that of religious icons such as the cross or star and crescent. The concentric circles were not intended to be a religious icon representing a denomination. It is Michael’s symbol. And the Urantia Book is not a religion. I keep saying this, and people might agree with me intellectually but in their hearts they’ve already made it their religion of authority, even if the book itself discourages it.
Why? This can be seen as a paradox. Why do people who revere the text ignore certain parts of it when it doesn’t suit their purpose?
[wpcol_1third id=”” class=”” style=””][/wpcol_1third] [wpcol_2third_end id=”” class=”” style=””]Because they don’t understand it. They’re not really sure what a religion of experience is because they haven’t had much of it. They were brought up in an environment of traditional faiths which were religions of authority. All major religions are mostly religions of authority, in which scriptural text was used as the authority for spiritual teachings. If that is what you are used to, it requires almost a quantum evolutionary leap to having a personal relationship with God – a religion of experience.[/wpcol_2third_end]
So yes, it is difficult to make that jump. But people must be led to it. And Urantia Book readers must do their utmost to instill in others the value of personal spiritual experience. The difficult part is that there are so many readers who have made The UB their religion of authority. And many of them do not realize it. You may be one of those without even being aware of it. I had to personally look inward to see if I, myself, was making the UB a religion of authority. I asked myself, how much of the information in the book do I believe without question? Without having any personal experiences with it? For example, I have no experience with the mansion worlds, but when I believe everything written about it in the book without question, I am leaning towards making TUB a religion of authority. But then I realized, it is only when I believe in it without question that I am making the book an infallible authority. As long as I question the book, keep a modicum of skepticism, remain objective and evaluate the information using my intelligence, wisdom and experience and not buy into it lock, stock and barrel, I am not creating a religion of authority. As long as I evaluate the book by testing out its tenets and concepts through personal experience, it does not lead toward a religion of authority. This is an arduous process though, as many of the so-called “facts” in The UB are not verified by our human science and is more a leap of faith. If we are to keep our own scientific integrity, we cannot accept the “facts” in the book without verifiable evidence using the scientific methods of controlled experiments and repeatability. To believe in scientific facts without evidence requires faith and is tantamount to turning science into a religion of authority.
However, the spiritual truths can be verified by our own inner experiences. And that is why the truth that we can each attain our own personal relationship with God is paramount to our planetary evolution and that is why the book says that that is the only true religion.
Outreach, as in personally going out to give people The Urantia Book is a good thing to do. It is a learning experience for the person doing the outreach and it does get the book out there, although I think it should be done by professional book marketers who can do a much better job on a much larger scale. (A side note: remember the parable of the sower? How seeds grow with various results depending on where it lands? That was the old way of doing things. In agriculture we have come up with advances that enables us to make sure that the seeds are planted where it will grow. Same with the seeding of truth, we now have marketing processes where we can target the people that would be most attracted to the book. We can avoid the stony ground!)
However, to lead people to the substance of the book, we must take the next evolutionary step, which is to go out and teach the concepts in the book without depending on the book; to express the findings of our souls, which we have gleaned and nurtured over the many years of reading the book and living its teachings. Mentioning The Urantia Book as well as other spiritual books should only be a shadow, an afterthought to the bright light of connecting soul to soul.
But first, let us do what Jesus tells us we should do, which is to evolve a personal religion of experience. Once we do that, only then can we teach the religion of experience person-to-person, face-to-face, and not lead people to a religion of authority by solely handing out books. We do not need the blind leading the blind. We need more readers to open their spiritual eyes and work on self-mastery and giving authority to their souls so that they can more effectively lead those who are stumbling around under the religions of authority.
I know many of us are led to service. We want to serve God, and the best way that some can think of is to hand out Urantia Books. Many people think that more is better. (Even after the “more is better” mentality has created a national obesity problem, environmental degradation and rampant materialism.) More Urantia Books in the world doesn’t necessarily mean the world is a better place. Especially if it becomes another religion of authority. Quantity does not necessarily mean quality. A classic example is the Vietnam War in which victory was evaluated by body count. We won almost every battle in that more Viet Cong were killed than American soldiers, and yet we lost the war.
The same holds true for getting people into having a personal relationship with God; having a quantity of Urantia Books out in the world is useless if people don’t have quality spiritual experiences. What’s important is to have a quantity of people have quality personal relations with the Universal Father. And books of religious authority have often been counterproductive in achieving that end, because the people pushing those books didn’t have that personal connection with God themselves and relied too much on the written word, rather than on their own personal spiritual experiences. They hid behind the shadow, and the substance was not seen.
Rather than applauding people on how many books they distribute, we should applaud them on how many souls they have gotten into having a personal relationship with God. Unless the reader achieves a personal relationship with God, having The Urantia Book means very little. And one can have that personal relationship without ever having read any book.
The extent that you push the book without discussing the concepts is directly proportional to your understandings of the book. The more people we draw into having a personal relationship with God, the more people will read the book. Push the book as religious authority and we will get resistance. Emphasize the concepts and people will be drawn to read the book. Shine light on the substance and the shadow cannot help but naturally appear. In other words, the substance of the message will create the demand which the marketers can then supply. Putting the books on the bookstore shelves does not by itself create demand, but once the demand is created, you wouldn’t be able to keep it off the shelves.
So, push the book or the message? Both, but the message is the substance and should be in the forefront. We are like a spear thrusting into the future. Think of the book as the shaft and the message as the spearhead as we advance towards Light and Life!