Time for More Change? Symbols, Cults, and The Urantia Book
Ken Glasziou, Qld., Australia
Often when faced with having to do something that I would prefer to relegate to the "too hard" basket, my stomach reacts with real rather than symbolic "nausea." This occurred when Ann Bendall handed me about 300 pages of literature on symbolism and religion. Symbolism was not on my list of favorite pastimes. However, I was aware that The Urantia Book had some important things to say, for and against, symbolism:
"Regardless of the drawbacks and handicaps, every new revelation of truth has given rise to a new cult, and even the restatement of the religion of Jesus must develop a new and appropriate symbolism. Modern man must find some adequate symbolism for his new and expanding ideas, ideals, and loyalties. This enhanced symbol must arise out of religious living, spiritual experience. And this higher symbolism of a higher civilization must be predicated on the concept of the Fatherhood of God and be pregnant with the mighty ideal of the brotherhood of man." (966)
Note the four-fold use of the imperative "must." The Urantia Book uses this word 756 times. A random sample of about fifty indicated that it is never used facetiously. So it appears that, sooner or later, we readers must do something about developing a meaningful symbolism. Jesus himself provided a beginning with his inauguration of the remembrance supper.
"This supper of remembrance, when it is partaken of by those who are son-believing and God-knowing, does not need to have associated with its symbolism any of man's puerile misinterpretations regarding the meaning of the divine presence, for upon all such occasions the Master is really present. The remembrance supper is the believer's symbolic rendezvous with Michael. When you become thus spirit-conscious, the Son is actually present, and his spirit fraternizes with the indwelling fragment of his Father." (1942)
I have yet to experience a remembrance supper at any meeting of Urantia Book readers that I have attended, either in Australia or overseas. Perhaps that is because all present had minds of "greater spiritual illumination" (999), and no need for puerile symbolism. Nevertheless, we are told that "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." (999)
Personally I have no problem with revering truth, beauty, and goodness but I do have problems in worshipping the First Source and Center. I really don't know what to do! There are two reasons, one being my inability to comprehend or visualize a supreme and infinite being, and the second that I do not know how I should go about worshiping such a being. However, the book tells me that, to all intents and purposes, a Creator Son is God to his universe, and I have no problem worshiping Jesus-Michael. Apparently I have an inbuilt need for some kind of mind-image as a focus of worship. Have you ever wondered about the form of worship on Paradise that gets out of the control of the Conductors of Worship? (304) What do those worshippers actually say, do, or feel?
I began to understand some of my own inadequacies when I read about the difference between "discursive" and "presentational" forms of symbols. About the former, I'm told that, when reasoning, our minds organize word-symbols in a logical sequence appropriate to "discursive" thought. The relationships of these symbols of discursive reasoning are set by the rules of logical syntax. Mathematics is made up of discursive symbols and science has little use for any but discursive symbols! Having spent a large portion of my life working in the field of science with a sprinkling of mathematics, I presume my mind shuts down automatically when confronted with the "presentational" form of symbolism. This automatic mechanism probably infects most of us who have been nurtured in this age of science and technology.
Now the really rich field for psychological study is with the other type of symbol, the expressive or presentational. I'm not going to get anywhere in expounding on this form until I tell about the findings of the "Gestalt" psychologists whose experimentation revealed that perception comes to us, not in bits and pieces to be stuck together by some logical operation of mind, but all in one in a coherent, patterned, and structured whole. For example, the baby seeing the face of its mother does not see a collection of parts - a mouth of a certain shape, eyes of a certain color positioned in a certain way, a nose of a certain shape and so on - no, the baby sees and recognizes the face as a single whole, as an image thrown onto the screen of consciousness. And the baby recognizes that the unkempt mum that gets out of bed in the morning and the one having undergone metamorphosis at the beauty parlor is one and the same!
The marvels of this kind of perception of pattern or "Gestalt" are illustrated by other types of stimuli. A melody is recognized although transposed into another key - a completely different set of individual notes. A live rabbit, a cuddly cloth rabbit, and a mere outline drawing present three distinct sets of sensory data but even a young child quickly matches them. In one of the articles that I read, a pianist was mentioned who, while socializing with a