Tuesday, March 28, 2006

3.28.06 Rigby: Why We Let an Atheist Join Our Church

March 27, 2006

The Teachings of Christ are Spiritual and Political
Why We Let an Atheist Join Our Church


By JIM RIGBY

After years of advocacy for progressive causes, I am used to angry mail -- often from fellow Christians -- when I take a political or theological position that challenges conservative or fundamentalist views.

So, I wasn't surprised when many were unhappy about the decision of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, where I am the pastor, to let a self-professed atheist become a member. But the intensity and tone of the condemnations were surprising; this wave of mail feels different, more desperate, like people have been backed against a wall.

Ironically, the new member, a longtime leftist political activist and professor in Austin, has been getting mail from fellow atheists skeptical of his decision.

"How can you do this?" both sides are asking. To me they ask, "How can you let someone join the church who cannot affirm the divinity of Christ? Does nothing matter to you liberals?" To Robert Jensen they ask, "How, as an atheist, can you surrender your mind to a superstitious institution that birthed the inquisition and the crusades?"

Neither the church nor Jensen views his membership as surrendering anything, but instead as an attempt to build connections. Such efforts are crucial in a world where there seems not to be a lot of wood to build the bridges we need. And the shame is, while we fight among ourselves, the world is burning.

In my ministry, I have had to live in two worlds. I have spiritual friends who are trying to celebrate the mystery of life, and activist friends who are trying to change the world. Somehow these two enterprises have been separated, but I don't believe either option represents a complete life. Apolitical spirituality runs the danger of giving charity instead of justice, while atheistic humanism runs the danger of offering facts instead of meaning. This divide between spirituality and activism is a betrayal of the deeper roots of both.

The Book of James argues that merely believing in the existence of God means nothing; he jokes that even the demons believe that. Some of the meanest people I have ever met believed in God. The Nazis marched across Europe with belts reading "God is with us," singing some of the same hymns and reciting some of the same creeds that the church uses today. With a few notable exceptions, the German church hid in liturgy and theology while their brothers and sisters burned. Surely, the holocaust is a permanent rebuttal of that kind of detached creedal Christianity.

It's been interesting to see that atheists can be just as narrow-minded as believers. Some of Jensen's critics expressed an infallible belief that religious people like me are idiots by definition. Inflexible beliefs on matters where one has no experience is superstition whether one is a believer or in an atheist.

Atheism can become self-parody when it forms a rigid belief system about religion. There is a difference between true atheism and anti-theism. Atheism can be the naked pursuit of truth, but anti-theism is more often the adolescent joy of upsetting and mocking religious people.

I can understand the urge to make fun of religious people; many of the voices which speak for religion make me want to crawl under the table. But we also must remember that Stalinists -- claiming to be atheistic materialists -- were as savage and superstitious as the inquisitors.

Without religion we would eliminate some of the worst chapters in human history brought on by the religious inquisitors and religious terrorists. But we would also eliminate some of history's best chapters. Imagine a world with no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King, and no Dorothy Day.

Some people argue that evolution disproves religion. I would say that evolution helps us understand why religion is inevitable in human beings. Our upper brain functions are built on top of a marshy swamp of animal instincts, and we are rational only in spurts. Much of our most important processes are irrational, even more are unconscious altogether. To say we will be purely scientific and objective is an act of imaginary dissociation from the liquid core of our own being. In Sartre's words it is "bad faith".

Advertisers know this swampy core and sell to it. Televangelists know this swampy core and manipulate it. Politicians know this swampy core and appeal to it. While progressives are trying to be purely logical, propagandists are playing that irrational core like a drum.

If there's hope of saving the world from the clutches of propaganda it will not be because we refute it rationally. If we save our world it will be because we learned how to speak about personal meaning in a way that is adaptive to natural processes and compatible with universal human rights. Nothing else will do.

Hegel defined religion as putting philosophy into pictures. Strange and foreboding topics like hermeneutics and metaphysics can be taught to almost anyone if they are put in story form. While it is important not to accept these images literally, it is just as important not to reject them literally.

Because life is an ineffable mystery, religion speaks in pictures and symbols. To accept or reject the symbols literally is to miss the point from two different sides. Those who fight over whether God exists are like foolish pedestrians who praise or curse a red light as they step into oncoming traffic. The question isn't whether God exists like a brick exists, but rather "what part of our experience does the symbol √ęGod' reveal and what parts does it obscure?"

The problem with most religious discussions is that we are usually swimming in a sea of undefined terms. What sense does it make to ask whether God exists if we don't define what we mean by the term "God." For some it's easier to reconcile themselves to the universe by picturing a large person overseeing the process, while others reconcile themselves to the ground by using impersonal elemental images. These approaches are in conflict only when we forget what we are trying to do in the first place, which is to harmonize with the ground of our being.

Locke and Kant struggled to identify the ultimate categories that shape human perception, which is also the business of religion. We cannot think about being itself because it is too basic. We are like flowers that immerge out of a soil too primordial to be understood in plant terms; we can neither speak about the ground of our being nor ignore it. Religion is a kind of art that reconciles us to the ground out of which we emerge.

As William James pointed out, religion is not merely hypothetical opinion about the world. Religion is most essentially a decision to be engaged in a world that cannot be understood and offers no guarantees. "God" is a symbol of the truth that stands outside our widest context. "God" is a symbol of the reality deeper than our ultimate concern. "God" is a symbol of the mystery that lies between the poles of our clearest rational dichotomy. The point is not to affirm the reality of the symbol itself, but to affirm the reality to which the symbol points.

Part of the apoplexy triggered by Dr. Jensen came from his statement that he was joining our church for "political reasons." If one defines politics as partisan wrangling then Jensen's comments can be seen as calculating and manipulative, but if politics is about how we treat each other, then he is joining the church for the same reason the apostles did -- to help save our world.

The religion of Jesus is both spiritual and political. Jesus said in his first sermon that he had come to preach good news to the poor. He taught that love fulfills the law and the prophets, and spoke of a coming movement of God that would lift up the poor and oppressed. Jesus let a doubter like Thomas serve that cause long before the disciple could affirm any creed. Jesus said that people who blaspheme him or God would be forgiven but those who blaspheme the Spirit (of love) would not be. Religion is not about groveling before a savior, it's joining in the work of saving our world.

One last irony is that early Christians were sometimes accused of being atheists. Like true Muslims and Jews, the early Christians refused to worship human images of God. While I have nothing against the creeds per se, if they do not sing of a love for all humankind they are evil and must be renounced as idolatrous. Surely the essence of Christianity or any religion is not found in dogma but in the life of love of which the creeds sing. If God had wanted us to simply recite creeds, Jesus would have come as a parrot.

Is there still room in the church for Thomas? Doubters are an essential part of the team. The atheism of Ingersoll and Kropotkin is very much like the mysticism of Schweitzer and Dorothy Day. In fact, I cannot help but imagine they would all join in common cause to serve our world had they lived at the same place and time.

"Whoever has love has God." That's what the Bible says. So the question before my church was not whether Dr. Jensen could recite religious syllables like a cockatiel, but whether he would follow the core teachings of Jesus and learn more and grow more into Christ's universal love of which the creeds sing. This he pledged to do.

I repeat: while we are fighting among ourselves, our world is burning.

Jim Rigby is pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at jrigby0000@aol.com.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

3.10.06 We Mourn the Loss of Tom Fox

CPT Release: We Mourn the Loss of Tom Fox
10 March 2006

In grief we tremble before God who wraps us with compassion. The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain. Tom Fox’s body was found in Baghdad yesterday.

Christian Peacemaker Teams extends our deep and heartfelt condolences to the family and community of Tom Fox, with whom we have traveled so closely in these days of crisis.

We mourn the loss of Tom Fox who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone.

We renew our plea for the safe release of Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember. Each of our teammates has responded to Jesus’ prophetic call to live out a nonviolent alternative to the cycle of violence and revenge.

In response to Tom’s passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done. In Tom’s own words: "We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.”

Even as we grieve the loss of our beloved colleague, we stand in the light of his strong witness to the power of love and the courage of nonviolence. That light reveals the way out of fear and grief and war.

Through these days of crisis, Christian Peacemaker Teams has been surrounded and upheld by a great outpouring of compassion: messages of support, acts of mercy, prayers, and public actions offered by the most senior religious councils and by school children, by political leaders and by those organizing for justice and human rights, by friends in distant nations and by strangers near at hand. These words and actions sustain us. While one of our teammates is lost to us, the strength of this outpouring is not lost to God’s movement for just peace among all peoples.

At the forefront of that support are strong and courageous actions from Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world for which we are profoundly grateful. Their graciousness inspires us to continue working for the day when Christians speak up as boldly for the human rights of thousands Iraqis still detained illegally by the United States and United Kingdom.

Such an outpouring of action for justice and peace would be a fitting memorial for Tom. Let us all join our voices on behalf of those who continue to suffer under occupation, whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. In so doing, we may hasten the day when both those who are wrongly detained and those who bear arms will return safely to their homes. In such a peace we will find solace for our grief.

Despite the tragedy of this day, we remain committed to put into practice these words of Jim Loney: “With the waging of war, we will not comply. With the help of God’s grace, we will struggle for justice. With God’s abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.” We continue in hope for Jim, Harmeet and Norman’s safe return home safe.

Contact: Dr. Doug Pritchard, CPT Co-Director 416-423-5525 (Canada) and Rev. Carol Rose, CPT Co-Director, Kryss Chupp, 773-277-0253 (USA)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

12.14.05 Adam had'em - Clowning around with old and new words and images




History has it that Shakespeare was a partner in a newly organized company, The Chamberlain's Men, which dominated "the Elizabethan and the Jacobean stage (in the later period under the sponsorship of King James himself), performing publicly at the famous Globe playhouse and for smaller audiences at the Blackfriars. Along with its best-known actors, Richard Burbage and William Kemp, he received payment for presenting two plays before the Queen at court during the Christmas festivities of 1594. The Chamberlain's Men had not infrequent occasion to offer such command performances; and after 1603, when the troup became His Majesty's Servants, its sharers were officially treated as members of the royal household." (Harry Levin in The Riverside Shakespeare, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1974)

In some modern productions of Hamlet, the first twenty-five or so lines of Act V, Scene I are cut out, presumably because the meaning of and humor in its double and triple entendre, being little understood by those who live at such a remove from the experience of people for whom the Bible was life's single most informative text and from writers and actors who worked under the patronage of kings and princes, have been rendered obscure by the mists of time.

SCENE I. A churchyard. Enter two Clowns [with spades, & mattocks].

First Clown: Is she to be buried in Christian burial when she wilfully seeks her own salvation?

Second Clown: I tell thee she is, therefore make her grave straight. The crowner [coroner] hath sat on her, and finds it Christian burial.

First Clown: How can that be, unless she drown'd herself in her own defence?

Second Clown: Why, 'tis found so.

First Clown: It must be 'se offendendo'; it cannot be else. For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, it argues an act; and an act hath three branches - it is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned herself wittingly.

Second Clown: Nay, but hear you, goodman delver--

First Clown: Give me leave. Here lies the water; good, here stands the man, good; if the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes,--mark you that; but if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself, argal, he that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.

Second Clown: But is this law?
First Clown: Ay, marry, is't; crowner's quest law.

Second Clown: Will you ha' the truth on't? If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o' Christian burial.

First Clown: Why, there thou say'st: and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves, more than their even Christian. Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentleman but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers; they hold up Adam's profession.

Second Clown: Was he a gentleman?

First Clown: He was the first that ever bore arms.

Second Clown: Why, he had none.

First Clown: What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture? The Scripture says 'Adam digged, 'could he dig without arms? I'll put another question to thee, if thou answerest me not to the purpose, confess thyself--

Second Clown: Go to.

First Clown: What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?

Second Clown: The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants.

First Clown: I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows does well; but how does it well? it does well to those that do ill. Now thou dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the church: argal, the gallows may do well to thee. To't again, come.

Second Clown: 'Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?'

First Clown: Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.

Second Clown: Marry, now I can tell.
First Clown: To't.

Second Clown: Mass, I cannot tell.

[Enter HAMLET and HORATIO, at a distance]

First Clown: Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when you are asked this question next, say 'a grave-maker: 'the houses that he makes last till doomsday. Go, get thee to Yaughan: fetch me a stoup of liquor.

[Exit Second Clown. First Clown digs and sings]

First Clown: In youth, when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet,
To contract, O, the time, for, ah, my behove,
O, methought, there was nothing meet.

HAMLET: Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?

HORATIO: Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.

HAMLET: 'Tis e'en so; the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.

First Clown [sings]: But age, with his stealing steps,
Hath claw'd me in his clutch,
And hath shipped me intil the land,
As if I had never been such.

[throws up a skull]

HAMLET: That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once: how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God, might it not?

HORATIO: It might, my lord.

HAMLET: Or of a courtier; which could say 'Good morrow,sweet lord! How dost thou, good lord?' This might be my lord such-a-one, that praised my lord such-a-one's horse, when he meant to beg it; might it not?

HORATIO: Ay, my lord.

HAMLET: Why, e'en so, and now my Lady Worm's; chapless, and knocked about the mazzard with a sexton's spade. Here's fine revolution, an we had the trick to see't. Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats with 'em? mine ache to think on't.

First Clown [Sings]: A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
For and a shrouding sheet,
O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.

[Throws up another skull]

HAMLET: There's another. Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

HORATIO: Not a jot more, my lord.

HAMLET: Is not parchment made of sheepskins?

HORATIO: Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.

HAMLET: They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose grave's this, sirrah?

First Clown: Mine, sir. [Sings]
O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.

HAMLET: I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in't.

First Clown: You lie out on't, sir, and therefore it is not yours. For my part, I do not lie in't, and yet it is mine.

HAMLET : 'Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine, 'tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.

First Clown: 'Tis a quick lie, sir; 'twill away gain, from me to you.

HAMLET: What man dost thou dig it for?

First Clown: For no man, sir.

HAMLET: What woman, then?

First Clown: For none, neither.

HAMLET: Who is to be buried in't?

First Clown: One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead.

HAMLET: How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio, these three years I have taken a note of it; the age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he gaffs his kibe. How long hast thou been a grave-maker?

First Clown: Of all the days i' the year, I came to't that day that our last king Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.

HAMLET: How long is that since?

First Clown: Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that: it was the very day that young Hamlet was born; he that is mad, and sent into England.

HAMLET: Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

First Clown: Why, because he was mad. He shall recover his wits there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter there.

HAMLET: Why?

First Clown: 'Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he.

HAMLET: How came he mad?

First Clown: Very strangely, they say.

HAMLET: How strangely?

First Clown: Faith, e'en with losing his wits.

HAMLET: Upon what ground?

First Clown: Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.

HAMLET: How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot?

First Clown: I' faith, if he be not rotten before he die--as we have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce hold the laying in--he will last you some eight year or nine year: a tanner will last you nine year.

HAMLET: Why he more than another?

First Clown: Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that he will keep out water a great while; and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth three and twenty years.

HAMLET: Whose was it?

First Clown: A whoreson mad fellow's it was: whose do you think it was?

HAMLET: Nay, I know not.

First Clown: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a' poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.

HAMLET: This?

First Clown: E'en that.

HAMLET: Let me see. [takes the skull]
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I knownot how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, lether paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

HORATIO: What's that, my lord?

HAMLET: Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i'the earth?

HORATIO: E'en so.
HAMLET: And smelt so? pah! [puts down the skull]
HORATIO: E'en so, my lord.

HAMLET: To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?

HORATIO: 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.

HAMLET: No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it, as thus, Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!
But soft! but soft awhile, here comes the King.

* * *
True it is, you mortals are of earthly, animal origin; your frame is indeed dust. But if you actually will, if you really desire, surely the heritage of the ages is yours, and you shall someday serve throughout the universes in your true characters -- children of the Supreme God of experience and divine sons of the Paradise Father of all personalities. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 112)



The spirit never drives, only leads. If you are a willing learner, if you want to attain spirit levels and reach divine heights, if you sincerely desire to reach the eternal goal, then the divine Spirit will gently and lovingly lead you along the pathway of sonship and spiritual progress. Every step you take must be one of willingness, intelligent and cheerful cooperation. The domination of the Spirit is never tainted with coercion nor compromised by compulsion. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 34)

Social leadership is transformed by spiritual insight; religion prevents all collective movements from losing sight of their true objectives. Together with children, religion is the great unifier of family life, provided it is a living and growing faith. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 99)

No social system or political regime which denies the reality of God can contribute in any constructive and lasting manner to the advancement of human civilization. But Christianity, as it is subdivided and secularized today, presents the greatest single obstacle to its further advancement; especially is this true concerning the Orient. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 195)


And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. — Jesus, Luke 6:31, King James Version.

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. — The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Hadith

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. — Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a



God assigns angels to do many things on earth. They are ministering spirits sent to serve . . .(Hebrews 1:14)

The Discerner of Spirits. A special liaison exists between the counselors and advisers of the second Havona circle and these reflective angels. They are the only seconaphim attached to the Universal Censors but are probably the most uniquely specialized of all their fellows. Regardless of the source or channel of information, no matter how meager the evidence at hand, when it is subjected to their reflective scrutiny, these discerners will forthwith inform us as to the true motive, the actual purpose, and the real nature of its origin. I marvel at the superb functioning of these angels, who so unerringly reflect the actual moral and spiritual character of any individual concerned in a focal exposure.

The Discerners of Spirits carry on these intricate services by virtue of inherent "spiritual insight," if I may use such words in an endeavor to convey to the human mind the thought that these reflective angels thus function intuitively, inherently, and unerringly. When the Universal Censors behold these presentations, they are face to face with the naked soul of the reflected individual; and this very certainty and perfection of portraiture in part explains why the Censors can always function so justly as righteous judges. The discerners always accompany the Censors on any mission away from Uversa, and they are just as effective out in the universes as at their Uversa headquarters.

I assure you that all these transactions of the spirit world are real, that they take place in accordance with established usages and in harmony with the immutable laws of the universal domains. The beings of every newly created order, immediately upon receiving the breath of life, are instantly reflected on high; a living portrayal of the creature nature and potential is flashed to the superuniverse headquarters. Thus, by means of the discerners, are the Censors made fully cognizant of exactly "what manner of spirit" has been born on the worlds of space.


So it is with mortal man: The Mother Spirit of Salvington knows you fully, for the Holy Spirit on your world "searches all things," and whatsoever the divine Spirit knows of you is immediately available whenever the secoraphic discerners reflect with the Spirit concerning the Spirit's knowledge of you. It should, however, be mentioned that the knowledge and plans of the Father fragments are not reflectible. The discerners can and do reflect the presence of the Adjusters (and the Censors pronounce them divine), but they cannot decipher the content of the mindedness of the Mystery Monitors.

In the same manner as their fellows, these angels are created serially and in seven reflective types, but these types are not assigned individually to the separate services of the superuniverse administrators. All tertiary seconaphim are collectively assigned to the Trinitized Sons of Attainment, and these ascendant sons use them interchangeably; that is, the Mighty Messengers can and do utilize any of the tertiary types, and so do their co-ordinates, Those High in Authority and Those without Name and Number. These seven types of tertiary seconaphim are:

The Significance of Origins. The ascendant Trinitized Sons of a superuniverse government are charged with the responsibility of dealing with all issues growing out of the origin of any individual, race, or world; and the significance of origin is the paramount question in all our plans for the cosmic advancement of the living creatures of the realm. All relationships and the application of ethics grow out of the fundamental facts of origin. Origin is the basis of the relational reaction of the Gods. Always does the Conjoint Actor "take note of the man, in what manner he was born."

With the higher descendant beings, origin is simply a fact to be ascertained; but with the ascending beings, including the lower orders of angels, the nature and circumstances of origin are not always so clear, though of equally vital importance at almost every turn of universe affairs—hence the value of having at our disposal a series of reflective seconaphim who can instantly portray anything required respecting the genesis of any being in either the central universe or throughout the entire realm of a superuniverse.

The Significances of Origins are the living ready-reference genealogies of the vast hosts of beings—men, angels, and others—who inhabit the seven superuniverses. They are always ready to supply their superiors with an up-to-date, replete, and trustworthy estimate of the ancestral factors and the current actual status of any individual on any world of their respective superuniverses; and their computation of possessed facts is always up to the minute.

The Memory of Mercy. These are the actual, full and replete, living records of the mercy which has been extended to individuals and races by the tender ministrations of the instrumentalities of the Infinite Spirit in the mission of adapting the justice of righteousness to the status of the realms, as disclosed by the portrayals of the Significance of Origins. The Memory of Mercy discloses the moral debt of the children of mercy—their spiritual liabilities—to be set down against their assets of the saving provision established by the Sons of God. In revealing the Father's pre-existent mercy, the Sons of God establish the necessary credit to insure the survival of all. And then, in accordance with the findings of the Significance of Origins, a mercy credit is established for the survival of each rational creature, a credit of lavish proportions and one of sufficient grace to insure the survival of every soul who really desires divine citizenship.

The Memory of Mercy is a living trial balance, a current statement of your account with the supernatural forces of the realms. These are the living records of mercy ministration which are read into the testimony of the courts of Uversa when each individual's right to unending life comes up for adjudication, when "thrones are cast up and the Ancients of Days are seated. The broadcasts of Uversa issue and come forth from before them; thousands upon thousands minister to them, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before them. The judgment is set, and the books are opened." And the books which are opened on such a momentous occasion are the living records of the tertiary seconaphim of the superuniverses. The formal records are on file to corroborate the testimony of the Memories of Mercy if they are required.

The Memory of Mercy must show that the saving credit established by the Sons of God has been fully and faithfully paid out in the loving ministry of the patient personalities of the Third Source and Center. But when mercy is exhausted, when the "memory" thereof testifies to its depletion, then does justice prevail and righteousness decree. For mercy is not to be thrust upon those who despise it; mercy is not a gift to be trampled under foot by the persistent rebels of time. Nevertheless, though mercy is thus precious and dearly bestowed, your individual drawing credits are always far in excess of your ability to exhaust the reserve if you are sincere of purpose and honest of heart.



The mercy reflectors, with their tertiary associates, engage in numerous superuniverse ministries, including the teaching of the ascending creatures. Among many other things the Significances of Origins teach these ascenders how to apply spirit ethics, and following such training, the Memories of Mercy teach them how to be truly merciful. While the spirit techniques of mercy ministry are beyond your concept, you should even now understand that mercy is a quality of growth. You should realize that there is a great reward of personal satisfaction in being first just, next fair, then patient, then kind. And then, on that foundation, if you choose and have it in your heart, you can take the next step and really show mercy; but you cannot exhibit mercy in and of itself. These steps must be traversed; otherwise there can be no genuine mercy. There may be patronage, condescension, or charity—even pity—but not mercy. True mercy comes only as the beautiful climax to these preceding adjuncts to group understanding, mutual appreciation, fraternal fellowship, spiritual communion, and divine harmony.

The Import of Time. Time is the one universal endowment of all will creatures; it is the "one talent" intrusted to all intelligent beings. You all have time in which to insure your survival; and time is fatally squandered only when it is buried in neglect, when you fail so to utilize it as to make certain the survival of your soul. Failure to improve one's time to the fullest extent possible does not impose fatal penalties; it merely retards the pilgrim of time in his journey of ascent. If survival is gained, all other losses can be retrieved.

In the assignment of trusts the counsel of the Imports of Time is invaluable. Time is a vital factor in everything this side of Havona and Paradise. In the final judgment before the Ancients of Days, time is an element of evidence. The Imports of Time must always afford testimony to show that every defendant has had ample time for making decisions, achieving choice.

These time evaluators are also the secret of prophecy; they portray the element of time which will be required in the completion of any undertaking . . . The Gods foresee, hence foreknow; but the ascendant authorities of the universes of time must consult the Imports of Time to be able to forecast events of the future.

You will first encounter these beings on the mansion worlds, and they will there instruct you in the advantageous use of that which you call "time," both in its positive employment, work, and in its negative utilization, rest. Both uses of time are important.


The Solemnity of Trust. Trust is the crucial test of will creatures. Trustworthiness is the true measure of self-mastery, character. These seconaphim accomplish a double purpose in the economy of the superuniverses: They portray to all will creatures the sense of the obligation, sacredness, and solemnity of trust. At the same time they unerringly reflect to the governing authorities the exact trustworthiness of any candidate for confidence or trust.

On Urantia, you grotesquely essay to read character and to estimate specific abilities, but on Uversa we actually do these things in perfection. These seconaphim weigh trustworthiness in the living scales of unerring character appraisal, and when they have looked at you, we have only to look at them to know the limitations of your ability to discharge responsibility, execute trust, and fulfill missions. Your assets of trustworthiness are clearly set forth alongside your liabilities of possible default or betrayal.

It is the plan of your superiors to advance you by augmented trusts just as fast as your character is sufficiently developed to gracefully bear these added responsibilities, but to overload the individual only courts disaster and insures disappointment. And the mistake of placing responsibility prematurely upon either man or angel may be avoided by utilizing the ministry of these infallible estimators of the trust capacity of the individuals of time and space. These seconaphim ever accompany Those High in Authority, and never do these executives make assignments until their candidates have been weighed in the secoraphic balances and pronounced "not wanting."

The Sanctity of Service. The privilege of service immediately follows the discovery of trustworthiness. Nothing can stand between you and opportunity for increased service except your own untrustworthiness, your lack of capacity for appreciation of the solemnity of trust.



Service—purposeful service, not slavery—is productive of the highest satisfaction and is expressive of the divinest dignity. Service—more service, increased service, difficult service, adventurous service, and at last divine and perfect service—is the goal of time and the destination of space. But ever will the play cycles of time alternate with the service cycles of progress. And after the service of time there follows the superservice of eternity. During the play of time you should envision the work of eternity, even as you will, during the service of eternity, reminisce the play of time.

The universal economy is based on intake and output; throughout the eternal career you will never encounter monotony of inaction or stagnation of personality. Progress is made possible by inherent motion, advancement grows out of the divine capacity for action, and achievement is the child of imaginative adventure. But inherent in this capacity for achievement is the responsibility of ethics, the necessity for recognizing that the world and the universe are filled with a multitude of differing types of beings. All of this magnificent creation, including yourself, was not made just for you. This is not an egocentric universe. The Gods have decreed, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and said your Master Son, "He who would be greatest among you let him be server of all." (The Urantia Papers, Paper 28)



. . . no Son could hope for final success without the incessant co-operation of the Divine Minister and her vast assemblage of spirit helpers, the daughters of God, who so faithfully and valiantly struggle for the welfare of mortal men and the glory of their divine parents. (The Urantia Book, Paper 33)


The angels develop an abiding affection for their human associates; and you would, if you could only visualize the seraphim, develop a warm affection for them. Divested of material bodies, given spirit forms, you would be very near the angels in many attributes of personality. They share most of your emotions and experience some additional ones. The only emotion actuating you which is somewhat difficult for them to comprehend is the legacy of animal fear that bulks so large in the mental life of the average [person]. The angels really find it hard to understand why you will so persistently allow your higher intellectual powers, even your religious faith, to be so dominated by fear, so thoroughly demoralized by the thoughtless panic of dread and anxiety. (The Urantia Book, Paper 113)


On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley arrived at the White House carrying a commerative WWII Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol. Being a collector of badges, he wished to trade the gun to President Richard Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) badge. Elvis got his badge, and the pistol is now on display at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. Presley died as a result of his addiction to drugs; Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency in disgrace after he was caught trying to cover up a failed burglary carried out by political espionage operatives in the employ of his re-election campaign.

Elvis was a reader of the Urantia Papers, as were and are a number of other famous people. These include Norman Lear, who had one of the more influential careers in the history of television (All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman); Star Trek creator/writer/producer Gene Roddenberry; science fiction author Frank Herbert (Dune); Buffy St. Marie (Canadian Native American musician, composer, visual artist, educator and social activist); Mo Segal (founder of Celestial Seasonings); actor Jackie Gleason (The Honeymooners); and rock-and-roll legends Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, the Moody Blues, Spirit, and Janis Joplin. The Urantia Papers' popularity among entertainment industry figures is one of the best kept open secrets of our time. Because some of the Papers' teachings have been perceived to conflict with Zionist and fundamentalist Christian theology and ideology, most of the entertainment industry figures publicly associated with the Papers, as you may have noted, are either dead, and thus at no risk of reprisal, or are Jewish and independently wealthy and thus able to afford to be open about beliefs that might well otherwise put them at risk of reprisal. Many other entertainers have been and are readers of the Urantia Papers but are discreet about their interest in the Papers. It has been reliably reported that several U.S. presidents have been readers, and Ronald Reagan is said to have had the text on a bookshelf in the Oval Office, though it may be difficult for some to imagine that he was a serious student of the Papers. For many years the Urantia Papers were the subject of a copyright dispute in the federal courts. The dispute is perceived by many to have been one result of a well organized and largely successful covert effort by powerful ethnic and religious special interest groups to suppress the text and co-opt and marginalize reader organizations. Pat Robertson is one among many fundamentalist Christian leaders who believe the Holy Bible is the literal and inerrant word of God and who have publicly condemned the Urantia Papers. Robertson also predicted the world would end in 1982 following a war in the Middle East. That didn't happen, but Robertson and many of his celebrity Christian Zionist doomsday cult colleagues are still trying to gin up their world-ending war, an indication of what passes for "religious idealism" in the minds of some who claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace. A 2001 federal court ruling put the Urantia Papers in the public domain.

* * *

Political wisdom. Emotional maturity is essential to self-control. Only emotional maturity will insure the substitution of international techniques of civilized adjudication for the barbarous arbitrament of war. Wise statesmen will sometime work for the welfare of humanity even while they strive to promote the interest of their national or racial groups. Selfish political sagacity is ultimately suicidal—destructive of all those enduring qualities which insure planetary group survival. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 52)



". . . this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile." President George W. Bush, September 16, 2001

Genuine religion takes nothing away from human existence, but it does add new meanings to all of life; it generates new types of enthusiasm, zeal, and courage. It may even engender the spirit of the crusader, which is more than dangerous if not controlled by spiritual insight and loyal devotion to the commonplace social obligations of human loyalties. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 100)

Idealism can never survive on an evolving planet if the idealists in each generation permit themselves to be exterminated . . . And here is the great test of idealism: Can an advanced society maintain that military preparedness which renders it secure from all attack by its . . . neighbors without yielding to the temptation to employ this military strength in offensive operations against other peoples for purposes of selfish gain or national aggrandizement? National survival demands preparedness, and religious idealism alone can prevent the prostitution of preparedness into aggression. Only love, brotherhood, can prevent the strong from oppressing the weak. (The Urantia Papers, Paper 71)

The overstressed and isolated morality of modern religion, which fails to hold the devotion and loyalty of many twent[y-first]-century men [and women], would rehabilitate itself if, in addition to its moral mandates, it would give equal consideration to the truths of science, philosophy, and spiritual experience, and to the beauties of the physical creation, the charm of intellectual art, and the grandeur of genuine character achievement. (The Urantia Book, Paper 2)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wholehearted choice: Gently obliterating the dead center of indecision


THE EVOLUTION OF PRAYER

PRAYER, AS AN AGENCY OF RELIGION, evolved from previous nonreligious monologue and dialogue expressions. With the attainment of self-consciousness by primitive man there occurred the inevitable corollary of other-consciousness, the dual potential of social response and God recognition.

The earliest prayer forms were not addressed to Deity. These expressions were much like what you would say to a friend as you entered upon some important undertaking, "Wish me luck." Primitive man was enslaved to magic; luck, good and bad, entered into all the affairs of life. At first, these luck petitions were monologues—just a kind of thinking out loud by the magic server. Next, these believers in luck would enlist the support of their friends and families, and presently some form of ceremony would be performed which included the whole clan or tribe.

When the concepts of ghosts and spirits evolved, these petitions became superhuman in address, and with the consciousness of gods, such expressions attained to the levels of genuine prayer. . . . In this early evolutionary confusion men pray to gods—local and national—to fetishes, amulets, ghosts, rulers, and to ordinary people.

PRIMITIVE PRAYER

The function of early evolutionary religion is to conserve and augment the essential social, moral, and spiritual values which are slowly taking form. This mission of religion is not consciously observed by mankind, but it is chiefly effected by the function of prayer. The practice of prayer represents the unintended, but nonetheless personal and collective, effort of any group to secure (to actualize) this conservation of higher values. But for the safeguarding of prayer, all holy days would speedily revert to the status of mere holidays.

Religion and its agencies, the chief of which is prayer, are allied only with those values which have general social recognition, group approval. Therefore, when primitive man attempted to gratify his baser emotions or to achieve unmitigated selfish ambitions, he was deprived of the consolation of religion and the assistance of prayer. If the individual sought to accomplish anything antisocial, he was obliged to seek the aid of nonreligious magic, resort to sorcerers, and thus be deprived of the assistance of prayer. Prayer, therefore, very early became a mighty promoter of social evolution, moral progress, and spiritual attainment.

But the primitive mind was neither logical nor consistent. Early men did not perceive that material things were not the province of prayer. These simple-minded souls reasoned that food, shelter, rain, game, and other material goods enhanced the social welfare, and therefore they began to pray for these physical blessings. While this constituted a perversion of prayer, it encouraged the effort to realize these material objectives by social and ethical actions. Such a prostitution of prayer, while debasing the spiritual values of a people, nevertheless directly elevated their economic, social, and ethical mores.

Prayer is only monologuous in the most primitive type of mind. It early becomes a dialogue and rapidly expands to the level of group worship. Prayer signifies that the premagical incantations of primitive religion have evolved to that level where the human mind recognizes the reality of beneficent powers or beings who are able to enhance social values and to augment moral ideals, and further, that these influences are superhuman and distinct from the ego of the self-conscious human and his fellow mortals. True prayer does not, therefore, appear until the agency of religious ministry is visualized as personal.

Prayer is little associated with animism, but such beliefs may exist alongside emerging religious sentiments. Many times, religion and animism have had entirely separate origins.

With those mortals who have not been delivered from the primitive bondage of fear, there is a real danger that all prayer may lead to a morbid sense of sin, unjustified convictions of guilt, real or fancied. But in modern times it is not likely that many will spend sufficient time at prayer to lead to this harmful brooding over their unworthiness or sinfulness. The dangers attendant upon the distortion and perversion of prayer consist in ignorance, superstition, crystallization, devitalization, materialism, and fanaticism.

EVOLVING PRAYER

The first prayers were merely verbalized wishes, the expression of sincere desires. Prayer next became a technique of achieving spirit co-operation. And then it attained to the higher function of assisting religion in the conservation of all worth-while values.

Both prayer and magic arose as a result of man's adjustive reactions to Urantian environment. But aside from this generalized relationship, they have little in common. Prayer has always indicated positive action by the praying ego; it has been always psychic and sometimes spiritual. Magic has usually signified an attempt to manipulate reality without affecting the ego of the manipulator, the practitioner of magic. Despite their independent origins, magic and prayer often have been interrelated in their later stages of development. Magic has sometimes ascended by goal elevation from formulas through rituals and incantations to the threshold of true prayer. Prayer has sometimes become so materialistic that it has degenerated into a pseudomagical technique of avoiding the expenditure of that effort which is requisite for the solution of Urantian problems.

When man learned that prayer could not coerce the gods, then it became more of a petition, favor seeking. But the truest prayer is in reality a communion between man and his Maker.

The appearance of the sacrifice idea in any religion unfailingly detracts from the higher efficacy of true prayer in that men seek to substitute the offerings of material possessions for the offering of their own consecrated wills to the doing of the will of God.

When religion is divested of a personal God, its prayers translate to the levels of theology and philosophy. When the highest God concept of a religion is that of an impersonal Deity, such as in pantheistic idealism, although affording the basis for certain forms of mystic communion, it proves fatal to the potency of true prayer, which always stands for man's communion with a personal and superior being. During the earlier times of racial evolution and even at the present time, in the day-by-day experience of the average mortal, prayer is very much a phenomenon of man's intercourse with his own subconscious. But there is also a domain of prayer wherein the intellectually alert and spiritually progressing individual attains more or less contact with the superconscious levels of the human mind, the domain of the indwelling Thought Adjuster. In addition, there is a definite spiritual phase of true prayer which concerns its reception and recognition by the spiritual forces of the universe, and which is entirely distinct from all human and intellectual association.

Prayer contributes greatly to the development of the religious sentiment of an evolving human mind. It is a mighty influence working to prevent isolation of personality.

Prayer represents one technique associated with the natural religions of racial evolution which also forms a part of the experiential values of the higher religions of ethical excellence, the religions of revelation.

PRAYER AND THE ALTER EGO

Children, when first learning to make use of language, are prone to think out loud, to express their thoughts in words, even if no one is present to hear them. With the dawn of creative imagination they evince a tendency to converse with imaginary companions. In this way a budding ego seeks to hold communion with a fictitious alter ego. By this technique the child early learns to convert his monologue conversations into pseudo dialogues in which this alter ego makes replies to his verbal thinking and wish expression. Very much of an adult's thinking is mentally carried on in conversational form.

The early and primitive form of prayer was much like the semimagical recitations of the present-day Toda tribe, prayers that were not addressed to anyone in particular. But such techniques of praying tend to evolve into the dialogue type of communication by the emergence of the idea of an alter ego. In time the alter-ego concept is exalted to a superior status of divine dignity, and prayer as an agency of religion has appeared. Through many phases and during long ages this primitive type of praying is destined to evolve before attaining the level of intelligent and truly ethical prayer.

As it is conceived by successive generations of praying mortals, the alter ego evolves up through ghosts, fetishes, and spirits to polytheistic gods, and eventually to the One God, a divine being embodying the highest ideals and the loftiest aspirations of the praying ego. And thus does prayer function as the most potent agency of religion in the conservation of the highest values and ideals of those who pray. From the moment of the conceiving of an alter ego to the appearance of the concept of a divine and heavenly Father, prayer is always a socializing, moralizing, and spiritualizing practice.

The simple prayer of faith evidences a mighty evolution in human experience whereby the ancient conversations with the fictitious symbol of the alter ego of primitive religion have become exalted to the level of communion with the spirit of the Infinite and to that of a bona fide consciousness of the reality of the eternal God and Paradise Father of all intelligent creation.

Aside from all that is superself in the experience of praying, it should be remembered that ethical prayer is a splendid way to elevate one's ego and reinforce the self for better living and higher attainment. Prayer induces the human ego to look both ways for help: for material aid to the subconscious reservoir of mortal experience, for inspiration and guidance to the superconscious borders of the contact of the material with the spiritual, with the Mystery Monitor.

Prayer ever has been and ever will be a twofold human experience: a psychologic procedure interassociated with a spiritual technique. And these two functions of prayer can never be fully separated.

Enlightened prayer must recognize not only an external and personal God but also an internal and impersonal Divinity, the indwelling Adjuster. It is altogether fitting that man, when he prays, should strive to grasp the concept of the Universal Father on Paradise; but the more effective technique for most practical purposes will be to revert to the concept of a near-by alter ego, just as the primitive mind was wont to do, and then to recognize that the idea of this alter ego has evolved from a mere fiction to the truth of God's indwelling mortal man in the factual presence of the Adjuster so that man can talk face to face, as it were, with a real and genuine and divine alter ego that indwells him and is the very presence and essence of the living God, the Universal Father.

ETHICAL PRAYING

No prayer can be ethical when the petitioner seeks for selfish advantage over his fellows. Selfish and materialistic praying is incompatible with the ethical religions which are predicated on unselfish and divine love. All such unethical praying reverts to the primitive levels of pseudo magic and is unworthy of advancing civilizations and enlightened religions. Selfish praying transgresses the spirit of all ethics founded on loving justice.

Prayer must never be so prostituted as to become a substitute for action. All ethical prayer is a stimulus to action and a guide to the progressive striving for idealistic goals of superself-attainment.

In all your praying be fair; do not expect God to show partiality, to love you more than his other children, your friends, neighbors, even enemies. But the prayer of the natural or evolved religions is not at first ethical, as it is in the later revealed religions. All praying, whether individual or communal, may be either egoistic or altruistic. That is, the prayer may be centered upon the self or upon others. When the prayer seeks nothing for the one who prays nor anything for his fellows, then such attitudes of the soul tend to the levels of true worship. Egoistic prayers involve confessions and petitions and often consist in requests for material favors. Prayer is somewhat more ethical when it deals with forgiveness and seeks wisdom for enhanced self-control.

While the nonselfish type of prayer is strengthening and comforting, materialistic praying is destined to bring disappointment and disillusionment as advancing scientific discoveries demonstrate that man lives in a physical universe of law and order. The childhood of an individual or a race is characterized by primitive, selfish, and materialistic praying. And, to a certain extent, all such petitions are efficacious in that they unvaryingly lead to those efforts and exertions which are contributory to achieving the answers to such prayers. The real prayer of faith always contributes to the augmentation of the technique of living, even if such petitions are not worthy of spiritual recognition. But the spiritually advanced person should exercise great caution in attempting to discourage the primitive or immature mind regarding such prayers.

Remember, even if prayer does not change God, it very often effects great and lasting changes in the one who prays in faith and confident expectation. Prayer has been the ancestor of much peace of mind, cheerfulness, calmness, courage, self-mastery, and fair-mindedness in the men and women of the evolving races.

SOCIAL REPERCUSSIONS OF PRAYER

In ancestor worship, prayer leads to the cultivation of ancestral ideals. But prayer, as a feature of Deity worship, transcends all other such practices since it leads to the cultivation of divine ideals. As the concept of the alter ego of prayer becomes supreme and divine, so are man's ideals accordingly elevated from mere human toward supernal and divine levels, and the result of all such praying is the enhancement of human character and the profound unification of human personality.

But prayer need not always be individual. Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it is highly socializing in its repercussions. When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such devotions are reactive upon the individuals composing the group; they are all made better because of participation. Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayer devotions. Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of valorous achievement.

If you truly desire to overcome the habit of criticizing some friend, the quickest and surest way of achieving such a change of attitude is to establish the habit of praying for that person every day of your life. But the social repercussions of such prayers are dependent largely on two conditions: 1. The person who is prayed for should know that he is being prayed for. 2. The person who prays should come into intimate social contact with the person for whom he is praying.

Prayer is the technique whereby, sooner or later, every religion becomes institutionalized. And in time prayer becomes associated with numerous secondary agencies, some helpful, others decidedly deleterious, such as priests, holy books, worship rituals, and ceremonials.

But the minds of greater spiritual illumination should be patient with, and tolerant of, those less endowed intellects that crave symbolism for the mobilization of their feeble spiritual insight. The strong must not look with disdain upon the weak. Those who are God-conscious without symbolism must not deny the grace-ministry of the symbol to those who find it difficult to worship Deity and to revere truth, beauty, and goodness without form and ritual. In prayerful worship, most mortals envision some symbol of the object-goal of their devotions.

THE PROVINCE OF PRAYER

Prayer, unless in liaison with the will and actions of the personal spiritual forces and material supervisors of a realm, can have no direct effect upon one's physical environment. While there is a very definite limit to the province of the petitions of prayer, such limits do not equally apply to the faith of those who pray.

Prayer is not a technique for curing real and organic diseases, but it has contributed enormously to the enjoyment of abundant health and to the cure of numerous mental, emotional, and nervous ailments. And even in actual bacterial disease, prayer has many times added to the efficacy of other remedial procedures. Prayer has turned many an irritable and complaining invalid into a paragon of patience and made him an inspiration to all other human sufferers.

No matter how difficult it may be to reconcile the scientific doubtings regarding the efficacy of prayer with the ever-present urge to seek help and guidance from divine sources, never forget that the sincere prayer of faith is a mighty force for the promotion of personal happiness, individual self-control, social harmony, moral progress, and spiritual attainment.

Prayer, even as a purely human practice, a dialogue with one's alter ego, constitutes a technique of the most efficient approach to the realization of those reserve powers of human nature which are stored and conserved in the unconscious realms of the human mind. Prayer is a sound psychologic practice, aside from its religious implications and its spiritual significance. It is a fact of human experience that most persons, if sufficiently hard pressed, will pray in some way to some source of help.

Do not be so slothful as to ask God to solve your difficulties, but never hesitate to ask him for wisdom and spiritual strength to guide and sustain you while you yourself resolutely and courageously attack the problems at hand.

Prayer has been an indispensable factor in the progress and preservation of religious civilization, and it still has mighty contributions to make to the further enhancement and spiritualization of society if those who pray will only do so in the light of scientific facts, philosophic wisdom, intellectual sincerity, and spiritual faith. Pray as Jesus taught his disciples—honestly, unselfishly, with fairness, and without doubting.

But the efficacy of prayer in the personal spiritual experience of the one who prays is in no way dependent on such a worshiper's intellectual understanding, philosophic acumen, social level, cultural status, or other mortal acquirements. The psychic and spiritual concomitants of the prayer of faith are immediate, personal, and experiential. There is no other technique whereby every man, regardless of all other mortal accomplishments, can so effectively and immediately approach the threshold of that realm wherein he can communicate with his Maker, where the creature contacts with the reality of the Creator, with the indwelling Thought Adjuster.

MYSTICISM, ECSTASY, AND INSPIRATION

Mysticism, as the technique of the cultivation of the consciousness of the presence of God, is altogether praiseworthy, but when such practices lead to social isolation and culminate in religious fanaticism, they are all but reprehensible. Altogether too frequently that which the overwrought mystic evaluates as divine inspiration is the uprisings of his own deep mind. The contact of the mortal mind with its indwelling Adjuster, while often favored by devoted meditation, is more frequently facilitated by wholehearted and loving service in unselfish ministry to one's fellow creatures.

The great religious teachers and the prophets of past ages were not extreme mystics. They were God-knowing men and women who best served their God by unselfish ministry to their fellow mortals. Jesus often took his apostles away by themselves for short periods to engage in meditation and prayer, but for the most part he kept them in service-contact with the multitudes. The soul of man requires spiritual exercise as well as spiritual nourishment.

Religious ecstasy is permissible when resulting from sane antecedents, but such experiences are more often the outgrowth of purely emotional influences than a manifestation of deep spiritual character. Religious persons must not regard every vivid psychologic presentiment and every intense emotional experience as a divine revelation or a spiritual communication. Genuine spiritual ecstasy is usually associated with great outward calmness and almost perfect emotional control. But true prophetic vision is a superpsychologic presentiment. Such visitations are not pseudo hallucinations, neither are they trancelike ecstasies.

The human mind may perform in response to so-called inspiration when it is sensitive either to the uprisings of the subconscious or to the stimulus of the superconscious. In either case it appears to the individual that such augmentations of the content of consciousness are more or less foreign. Unrestrained mystical enthusiasm and rampant religious ecstasy are not the credentials of inspiration, supposedly divine credentials.

The practical test of all these strange religious experiences of mysticism, ecstasy, and inspiration is to observe whether these phenomena cause an individual: 1. To enjoy better and more complete physical health. 2. To function more efficiently and practically in his mental life. 3.
More fully and joyfully to socialize his religious experience. 4. More completely to spiritualize his day-by-day living while faithfully discharging the commonplace duties of routine mortal existence. 5. To enhance his love for, and appreciation of, truth, beauty, and goodness. 6. To conserve currently recognized social, moral, ethical, and spiritual values. 7. To increase his spiritual insight—God-consciousness.

But prayer has no real association with these exceptional religious experiences. When prayer becomes overmuch aesthetic, when it consists almost exclusively in beautiful and blissful contemplation of paradisiacal divinity, it loses much of its socializing influence and tends toward mysticism and the isolation of its devotees. There is a certain danger associated with overmuch private praying which is corrected and prevented by group praying, community devotions.

PRAYING AS A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

There is a truly spontaneous aspect to prayer, for primitive man found himself praying long before he had any clear concept of a God. Early man was wont to pray in two diverse situations: When in dire need, he experienced the impulse to reach out for help; and when jubilant, he indulged the impulsive expression of joy.

Prayer is not an evolution of magic; they each arose independently. Magic was an attempt to adjust Deity to conditions; prayer is the effort to adjust the personality to the will of Deity. True prayer is both moral and religious; magic is neither.

Prayer may become an established custom; many pray because others do. Still others pray because they fear something direful may happen if they do not offer their regular supplications.

To some individuals prayer is the calm expression of gratitude; to others, a group expression of praise, social devotions; sometimes it is the imitation of another's religion, while in true praying it is the sincere and trusting communication of the spiritual nature of the creature with the anywhere presence of the spirit of the Creator.

Prayer may be a spontaneous expression of God-consciousness or a meaningless recitation of theologic formulas. It may be the ecstatic praise of a God-knowing soul or the slavish obeisance of a fear-ridden mortal. It is sometimes the pathetic expression of spiritual craving and sometimes the blatant shouting of pious phrases. Prayer may be joyous praise or a humble plea for forgiveness.

Prayer may be the childlike plea for the impossible or the mature entreaty for moral growth and spiritual power. A petition may be for daily bread or may embody a wholehearted yearning to find God and to do his will. It may be a wholly selfish request or a true and magnificent gesture toward the realization of unselfish brotherhood.

Prayer may be an angry cry for vengeance or a merciful intercession for one's enemies. It may be the expression of a hope of changing God or the powerful technique of changing one's self. It may be the cringing plea of a lost sinner before a supposedly stern Judge or the joyful expression of a liberated son of the living and merciful heavenly Father.

Modern man is perplexed by the thought of talking things over with God in a purely personal way. Many have abandoned regular praying; they only pray when under unusual pressure—in emergencies. Man should be unafraid to talk to God, but only a spiritual child would undertake to persuade, or presume to change, God.

But real praying does attain reality. Even when the air currents are ascending,
no bird can soar except by outstretched wings. Prayer elevates man because it is a technique of progressing by the utilization of the ascending spiritual currents of the universe.

Genuine prayer adds to spiritual growth, modifies attitudes, and yields that satisfaction which comes from communion with divinity. It is a spontaneous outburst of God-consciousness.

God answers man's prayer by giving him an increased revelation of truth, an enhanced appreciation of beauty, and an augmented concept of goodness. Prayer is a subjective gesture, but it contacts with mighty objective realities on the spiritual levels of human experience; it is a meaningful reach by the human for superhuman values. It is the most potent spiritual-growth stimulus.

Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow. The word value of a prayer is purely autosuggestive in private devotions and sociosuggestive in group devotions. God answers the soul's attitude, not the words.

Prayer is not a technique of escape from conflict but rather a stimulus to growth in the very face of conflict. Pray only for values, not things; for growth, not for gratification.

CONDITIONS OF EFFECTIVE PRAYER

If you would engage in effective praying, you should bear in mind the laws of prevailing petitions: 1. You must qualify as a potent prayer by sincerely and courageously facing the problems of universe reality. You must possess cosmic stamina. 2. You must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for human adjustment. You must have been industrious. 3. You must surrender every wish of mind and every craving of soul to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. You must have experienced an enhancement of meanings and an elevation of values. 4. You must make a wholehearted choice of the divine will. You must obliterate the dead center of indecision. 5. You not only recognize the Father's will and choose to do it, but you have effected an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the Father's will. 6. Your prayer will be directed exclusively for divine wisdom to solve the specific human problems encountered in the Paradise ascension—the attainment of divine perfection. 7. And you must have faith—living faith. The Urantia Papers, Paper 91