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The Urantia Book: Divine Revelation or Spiritual Echo Chamber?

Among the countless thousands of esoteric, spiritual and philosophical works of literature that have emerged during the 20th Century, the Urantia Book is not only one of the most popular, but it is also considered by its adherents to be one of the most accurate revelations regarding the nature of God and spiritual things that has ever been authored. While it is generally agreed upon that the manuscripts that form the basis of the book emerged in Chicago in the mid-to-late 1920s, no one is exactly sure who the authors were. The book itself offers the idea that its contents originated by way of a group of celestial beings who had an assignment to provide mankind with “advanced truth” regarding God and the spiritual world.

The Urantia Book: An Overview

According to the text, the word “Urantia” is another name for Planet Earth. Some of the primary themes discussed in the book include the meaning and origin of life, humanity’s role and position in the universe, God’s relationship to humankind, and several biographical details of the life of Jesus. The book itself is quite lengthy, weighing in at over 2,000 pages, and its contents are divided into four main sections:

* Part I (“The Central and Superuniverses”) – This section goes into detail regarding the various levels of creation, emphasizing the highest order of supernatural beings, primarily the divine Trinity comprised of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Throughout the book, the alternate titles that are frequently used for these beings are the Universal Father, the Eternal Son, and the Infinite Spirit, respectively.

* Part II (“The Local Universe”) – This section describes the activities of beings and personalities in a sphere of locality known as “Nebadon”, the area of the universe that contains Planet Earth and other related cosmic entities. Several narratives are presented regarding the goings on of created beings including angels, humans and others.

* Part III (“The History of Urantia”) – This section explores various aspects of cosmology, including a proposed explanation of how the universe began, how human beings came into existence, and what type of future or ultimate destination is in store for mankind. Several Biblical figures emerge in this section, including Melchizedek, as well as Adam and Eve.

* Part IV (“The Life and Teachings of Jesus”) – This section is widely considered the most impressive and accessible part of the entire book. It is also the largest, comprising some 775 pages worth of biographical details regarding the life of Jesus Christ, including his early childhood, his teenage and young adult life, as well as more details regarding his family life while growing up. Also included in this section are the more well-known aspects of the life of Christ including the events that led up to his crucifixion, bodily death and subsequent resurrection. This section also discusses several appearances that Jesus made to various people after he rose from the dead, as well as certain details regarding the Day of Pentecost. The final element of this section offers some insight into what is called “The Faith of Jesus”, a description of how Jesus himself operated in faith towards God.

The Book of Urantia itself is published and maintained by an organization known as The Urantia Foundation, which was established in 1950 and purports itself to be the “custodian” of the text of the Urantia Book. The Foundation does not claim to promote any particular religion, but rather they view the Urantia Book as a significant contribution to religious and philosophical thought and experience for people all over the world.

The Urantia Book: The Mystery of Its Authorship

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Urantia Book is the mystery of its authorship. The book itself claims to have been authored by extraterrestrial beings, which adds to the ambiguity of its inception. The Urantia Foundation’s own website [http://www.urantia.org/urantia-book/faqs/how-did-urantia-papers-come-be] offers little practical help, as it puts forth a lengthy and somewhat convoluted explanation regarding how the “Urantia Papers” materialized through various agents with strange titles such as “United Midwayers”, “Celestial Supervisors”, “Orvonton Administrators”, and “Inspired Trinity Spirits”.

What little is known about the origins of the book is that it is largely the product of a collection of research documents compiled by Chicago-based physicians William and Lena Sadler sometime in the summer of 1911. The Sadlers were approached by a neighbor who was deeply concerned about a strange pattern of behavior she began to notice in her husband, who would periodically fall into a deep sleep and display abnormal breathing patterns, often entering into what seemed like a state of altered consciousness. During these times, she stated that she was often unable to wake him up. The Sadlers agreed to begin observing the individual during these episodes in order to investigate a possible cause. Over time, the unidentified individual began communicating out loud while sleeping, sharing what he claimed to be messages from spiritual entities known as “student visitors”.

While William Sadler was not a believer in paranormal or supernatural phenomena, he admitted in an appendix to his book entitled “The Mind at Mischief” (a book in which he attempted to debunk paranormal and psychic phenomena) that the case of this unidentified neighbor represented a peculiar phenomenon that Sadler was “unable to classify”. Sadler went on to state that he had observed this individual at more than 250 different sessions, and that the individual acted as somewhat of a “clearing house” for the communications of “alleged extra-planetary personalities”. While Sadler was an admitted skeptic of this type of phenomena, he stated that all of his various methods of testing failed to confirm “that the written or spoken messages of this individual have origin in his own mind.”

Sadler was so marked by these strange observations that he began meeting on Sundays with a local group of friends, neighbors and colleagues to engage in philosophical and religious discussions. When Sadler brought up the peculiar case of this unnamed individual, the group members were curious to read some of the transcripts from those sessions. From there, the details become foggy as to how the book was actually written and compiled, but a common claim is that the members of the group would ask a series of questions, which would be answered in the form of written documents that mysteriously appeared. Eventually, all of the documents were compiled together to form what is now known as The Urantia Book. The approximately 30 members of the group, known as “The Forum”, swore themselves to secrecy regarding the contents of the book. William Sadler and his son Bill Sadler Jr. eventually were “allowed” (by an unnamed entity) to publish the book. They formed the Urantia Foundation in 1950, and published the completed Urantia Book in 1955.

Many skeptics believe that Sadler himself, and possibly his son, actually wrote the book. Sadler and other Forum members claimed that parts of the book materialized without them even knowing how. All of the individuals, including the Sadlers, who were originally involved in the formation of the Urantia Book are now deceased, and the legend behind the book has continued to grow due to the mysterious method by which it was authored. Although the true story behind the authorship of the Urantia Book will remain a mystery, one fact that cannot be denied is that it has had a significant impact on religious and philosophical communities worldwide.

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