Summer Session ‘03 – A Review and Perspective
By Lee Smith
Education Chair, The Urantia Book Fellowship
Enjoying mild weather, about one hundred spirited souls found their way to the tranquil setting of East Stroudsberg University to pursue this year’s Summer Study Session program, “Revelation and the Religionist.” Within this study session’s enticing, yet illusive, theme was an opportunity to delve into the main topic: the mystery of the use of human sources in The Urantia Book.
For the first time in the history of Summer Study Sessions, a group of dedicated students of The Urantia Book dared to critically examine the book itself. The rationale for this query has been steadily building over the past ten years with the continuing discoveries and documentation of significant human source contributors. Matthew Block, our featured speaker and the pioneer in researching the human sources came in from Southern California to candidly share his personal experiences related to finding dozens of human sources. Other keynote speakers weighing in on the human source intrigue included long time scholars: Dan Massey, David Kantor, Paula Thompson, Steven Hecht, and Steve Dreier. This session was a genuine inquiry. In one long weekend, I believe we all personally experienced some uncertain and uncharted territory. In short order, most participants were experiencing a full range of intellectual and emotional responses to plenary talks, workshops, and other interactions.
111:7.1 Uncertainty with security is the essence of the Paradise adventure…” (Paper 111, The Adjuster and the Soul)
Thankfully, so as not to become overwrought with the sourcing issue, our study session also included these insightful and practical workshops:
Bob Arkens: Why and How to Worship in Small Groups.
Meredith Tenney & Paul Kemp: Building Spiritual Community.
Richard Omura: The Urantia Book as Truth, not Fact– Validating the Urantia Book Through Personal Experience
Media Training and Bookstore Presentation Workshops led by Alison Gardner (2 Parts)
Fellowship Interfaith Committee: Resolving Conflict within our Spiritual Community. (2 Parts)
Buck and Arlene Weimer with Sara Blackstock: The Art of Marriage & Building the Foundation of a Home and Family. (2 Parts)
Rebecca Kantor: The Urantia Book as Christian Theology (or, There’s More to the Use of Source Authors Than You Think)
Al Lockett: Mastering the Art of Cultivating Relationships
Les Jamieson and Thomas Orjala: Moving Forward– Creating an Inspiring Future for our Movement and of the Planet.
And, yes, this conclave, historically titled the Intensive Summer Study Session, certainly lived up to its name this time and for good reason--it was a journey of the soul, as well as an intellectual expedition!
Friday, the first day, was bracing. Our two plenary presenters, Dan Massey and Matthew Block, without stinting, gave frank assessments of their evolving belief that significant portions of the science and history data in the Urantia Papers are not in accord with today’s accepted knowledge and can be readily mapped to early 20th century texts. While these presentations were quite different, each reflected changing personal viewpoints about The Urantia Book and its origins. In facing their own personal realization that many of The Urantia Book statements of scientific and historical “facts” are probably inaccurate, Dan and Matthew each speculated as to why celestial sources would allow this error to be mixed with what is otherwise such a profound and holistic masterpiece. Relative to the origins and authorship of the Urantia papers, after 10 years of research, Matthew remains a “baffled person..” Needless to say, both presentations provoked thoughtful reflection and stimulating conversation throughout the day and into the evening’s social gathering..
On Saturday, our next set of primary speakers, David Kantor, Paula Thompson and Steven Hecht, presented perspectives that were diverse, innovative, and refreshingly inspirational. David Kantor proposed that, in terms of language content and time-space context, The Urantia Book is a “snapshot of the Supreme” from the viewpoint of the early 1900’s. Yet, at the end of the second day, with an air of controversy and uncertainty still hovering over the Summer Session participants, it seemed appropriate to call a spiritual community forum after dinner to allow all attendees a chance to come together and speak from their hearts as well as with their intellects. With the puzzlement over “facts” versus “truth” and about epochal revelation itself -- I recalled a statement from the Last Teaching at Pella:
P1856:2, 169:4.4 Jesus well knew that God can be known only by the realities of experience; never can He be understood by the mere teaching of the mind… “
Paul, from Massachusetts, volunteered to begin the community forum with a sincere seeker’s portrayal of why he journeyed to this conference and how he now currently perceives The Urantia Book. Then, with the utmost respect given to each individual present, every person who wished to speak, freely and soulfully, without any interfering cross talk, was given the opportunity to do so. We went on for over two hours in what was basically an experience of, and testimony to, the idealization of personal faith. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend for me (and for many others I’m sure). The “Religionist” aspect of our theme was profoundly present, as was the Spirit of Truth.
On Sunday morning, Steve Dreier shared a vivid dream, rich with symbolism and meaning. He recounted a recent epiphany resulting from his own diligent research relative to the human sources, wherein he realized that the depth of truth and value from the human source books would have been lost in obscurity had it not been for their inclusion and revitalization in the Urantia Papers. This has now created an opportunity for more serious academic study and greater social acceptance. Further, the source books give a much deeper meaning and fuller understanding of the related subject matter found in The Urantia Book. Following Steve’s masterful sermon, a prayerful meditation on “the Divine Embrace” and an inspiring worship rounded out a profound Summer Session.
In reflecting on SSS03, I can appreciate that truth (whether it be the epochal sort, or the of regular every-day variety) grows out of the associated, realizable patterns and relationships that this living truth continually sponsors. Further, it is my sense that this process, which designedly interweaves origin, history and destiny—and is interconnected by cosmology, science, and religion—is what creates the genuine spiritual fabric that makes for a revelation of epochal character. Yet, for me, the most compelling and exemplary aspect of the revelatory adventure is in seeing sincere religionists, who actually dare to live and practice the teachings. Perhaps, of The Urantia Book experience and its associated fellowship, there is a corollary to this statement from Jesus:
"Let us be patient; the truth never suffers from honest examination. I am all that you say but more…. P1711:3, 153:2.11
Editor’s Note: Most of the presentations referred to above are being requested for electronic publishing on www.urantia-book.org