On Worship

A talk at the ANZURA Readers Conference, Surfers Paradise 1998

(published in Innerface International  6.1.1999)

The Urantia Book informs us that the quality of our worship is determined by the depth of our perception which, in turn, varies in proportion to the depth of our knowledge of God. It follows that our worship experience may be enhanced in two ways, firstly by increasing our understanding of ourselves and secondly by increasing our knowledge of God. So let’s make a start by attempting to know more about ourselves.
How can we know anything at all? How do we differentiate between dreams and reality, real and false memory, conscious sight and blind sight, a real image from an optical illusion, or a cause and effect kind of mechanical mind from a mind endowed with self-consciousness and freewill choice? How can we know which is which? How can we really know anything? Maybe this is an area where we can learn much more from revelation than we can from an empirical science that assumed, until recently, all things visible and invisible have a mechanistic explanation.

Mind, the Papers tell us, is derived from the Infinite Spirit, the source of Cosmic Mind. Therefore mind cannot be simply an electrochemical phenomenon. In actuality, it is a universe mystery. We have it, but we don’t know what it is. Cosmic Mind comes to the creatures of the universes via one of the seven Master Spirits thence via the Universe Mother Spirit who bestows it upon the local universe creatures.

Mind, we are told, is a gift that comes tailored specifically for the needs of the creature. The minds of our nearest cousins, the secondary midwayers, differ from ours. And their minds differ from primary midwayers whose minds are of the angelic type.  Like bodies, minds are disposable. Our earthly minds are disposed of when we move on to the Mansion worlds where we will be equipped with a different variation of Cosmic Mind.

All types of universe mind have certain properties in common that are derived directly from Cosmic Mind. Nevertheless, each variant is tailored for the benefit of the individual creature, according to their need. The three major classes of attribute deriving from Cosmic Mind that are held in common are classified under the headings of Causation, Duty, and Worship.

Causation covers those traits of mind that operate in the domain of the physical senses and are concerned with the differentiation of fact from non-fact, and the striving for meaning. We can observe this urge to strive to discover meaning quite readily in ourselves, and even in animals as they attempt to make sense of the signals invading their minds from the surrounding environment.

The Cosmic Mind’s attribute termed “duty” includes our innate sense of moral values and our ability to differentiate between relative right and wrong. It is interesting that, to date, all civilisations appear to have assumed that individuals are congenitally equipped to distinguish between relative right and wrong, rather than making the alternative assumption that right and wrong are defined solely by authoritarian decree.

Worship is another innate component of Cosmic Mind. Among other attributes, worship is concerned with the fostering of a personal realization of divine fellowship and our recognition of spiritual values. But it is not an attribute that is universally distributed. For the evolutionary creatures of a planet like ours, it comes only to those creatures that have evolved the quality of self-consciousness. (“When any animal becomes self-conscious it becomes a primitive man.” page 1479)

Having minds with the capacity to reason, to distinguish relative right and wrong, and to recognize spiritual values is only the first part of the human story. Along with what comes with Cosmic Mind, we also have the gift of “personality” directly from the Universal Father. With it comes the dual characteristics of relative free will and the capacity to utilize qualities indigenous to Cosmic Mind. The Cosmic Mind has them. Personality uses them. This combination of personality and Cosmic Mind is then adequate for the initiation of moral decisions, the very first of which initiates Adjuster indwelling.

“Personality is one of the unsolved mysteries of the universes.” So says a Divine Counselor. There are more than a thousand references to the term “personality” in the Urantia Papers. We can only cover what appear to be the most important for understanding ourselves. The Eternal Son, we are told, is the master pattern for all personality and Havona is the home of the personality pattern of every mortal type. Shades of Plato!! Once we start to think of personality as pattern, we are on our way to understanding some of apparently anomalous statements about it–for example we are informed that personality is changeless and is devoid of identity.

We are born with a gift from the Universal Father of a unique personality pattern already assigned to us. But just as with the basic pattern for a car or an item of clothing, the user of the pattern may modify it in many ways. The personality pattern we each have is there for our use. The pattern is fixed. Its use is not. Similarly, for example, the pattern of a dress is just the pattern, it is not the dress. The dress has its own identity. With that puzzle out of the road, let’s go through a listing of some other important things about personality.

  • It is a gift of the Father that is independent of and antecedent to bestowal of the Thought Adjuster.
  • It is diverse, original, exclusive, no two being the same.
  • Self-consciousness is one of the qualities it confers. Somehow our self-consciousness enables our recognition of other personalities.
  • It brings the endowment of relative free will necessary for moral decision making, spiritual choice, unselfish love, and our dedication to doing the Father’s will.
  • It survives by virtue of the survival of our soul. But it is neither body, mind, or soul, it is changeless while, at the same time, being integrating, unifying, and supervising for the living system of its bestowal.
  • Personality is the activator of the three basic realities of our cosmic minds–the recognition of uniformity of physical causation, the recognition of the obligation of moral conduct and loving service of humanity, and faith-grasp of the urge to Deity worship.
  • Personality has the competence to examine goals and pass judgment on their value.
  • Only a personality can know what it is doing before it does it.
  • Personality causes the spirit to strive for the mastery of energy-matter through the mediation of mind.

Personality then, appears to be some kind of hybrid between pattern that we think of as inert and something else that can activate and influence our minds. However, if we remember that the Divine Counselor described personality as an unsolved mystery, providing we do not try to be too precise about defining personality, then the concepts we have covered can help us to gain an understanding of one side of ourselves.

The components of self that we have touched upon are all of divine origin. They consist in a combination of our personality endowment from the Father, plus attributes of Cosmic Mind from the Infinite Spirit. Together these influences help bring about that first moral decision that initiates our indwelling by the  spirit-fragment from the Universal Father, our personal Thought Adjuster.

With all this marvelous equipment directly from Divinity, we might wonder why we humans are so intractable and perverse? So let’s take a look at what is in the opposing camp.

We are animal-origin evolutionary creatures. As such, we have remnants of those endowments that originated along that evolutionary pathway that permitted the survival of our animal ancestors. Among the most important behavioral attributes we have inherited are the dominance behavior character we see in most herd animals, the territorial-ism that is rife throughout the animal kingdom, the fight or flight response to danger, and the instinct to survive at all costs.

Dominance behavior in animals has been studied in what is sometimes termed the peck order in the fowl yard, but the same thing is seen with milking cows in a cowshed, or a group of horses in a paddock. Each animal in the group has a place on the social ladder, and every member is aware of which animal is higher and which is lower in the peck order. Any new animal introduced to the group must settle the score with every other member in order to establish its position on the ladder. In the wild, the male of the species can have a much harder life than the female. Its lot, on reaching maturity, may be to join in physical battle for the right to sire offspring, If it loses, it may find itself expelled from the safety of the flock or herd. And even if it wins, it is only a matter of time before something younger, fiercer, and stronger comes along to depose it. So win or lose, a short and violent life is its most probable lot. Although rooted in the survival of distant ancestral species, dominance behavior in the human herd is congenital in all of us, male and female alike.

Dominance behavior may be expressed in unusual ways. I remember being amazed at the results of a study of the physiological responses of a group of ordinary people taken both before and after entering their cars for their drive home from work. In some of these apparently normal people, their heart rate went from the usual 70-80 beats per minute range to something approaching the 200 mark before they were even on the road! And this was just the routine after-work drive home! They were not going out onto the race-track! One explanation is that the feeling of power associated with being in charge of a powerful weapon of possible destruction induces subconscious recall of the scent of battle. The ensuing  Adrenalin rush then brings about the extraordinarily high pulse rates. Strangely, it appears to be just as common in the female as in the male.

Territorial behavior is seen in the lowliest of creatures, from fishes and insects right through the animal kingdom, up to and including ourselves. For some, it may include an invisible space surrounding the animal, intrusion upon which calls for an aggressive response. Others may use scent of some kind to mark the boundaries of their personal territory. Groups of animals may have group territorial boundaries, intrusion into which calls for group action against the intruder. Human tribal communities often display this pattern. It is from these tribal communities that nations develop that continue with this behavior. In the human species, territorial behavior expresses itself in a multitude of ways, most of which carry the threat of conflict if there is an uninvited crossing of boundaries.

Probably all behavioral responses that are in direct opposition to those inherent urges in us to love one another and to live together in harmony, are actually rooted in the dominance, territorialism, and self-survival instincts inherited with our animal ancestry..

So stacked up against each other in the make-up of each of us is one set of behavioral urges that are of divine origin and nature, and a second set that derives from our tooth and claw evolutionary origins. The first is the unselfish set, the second set is probably always totally selfish–despite any appearances to the contrary.

I’ll stick my neck out here and state that to become a Jesus’ follower, there can be absolutely no compromise between these opposing forces. But that does not mean we will have no lapses. What it does mean is that to be a Jesus’ follower requires a sincere commitment to always try to do things in God’s way. And “always” means always with no closet reservations. If we make that decision, our subsequent ongoing problem then becomes its implementation. Confirming this no compromise viewpoint, from The Urantia Book we have: “To isolate part of life and call it religion is to disintegrate life and to distort religion. And this is just why the God of worship claims all allegiance or none.” (1224)

I’ve been a dedicated Jesus follower for considerably more than sixty years of my life and a Urantia Book reader for about twenty five of those years–so can lay claim to a reasonable amount of personal experience in this task of trying to be totally committed. A long time ago now one of my sons became disillusioned with Christianity and decided to try out Buddhist-style meditation. We talked about it and he explained that his problem with the Christian way is that there is no method. At the time, I had no answer for his problem.

In fact, it has taken me a long, long time to realize that there is a Urantia Book method of the kind my son was seeking. Then a further period elapsed before I understood the importance of the method. But it is only relatively recently that I believe I’ve cottoned on to the significance of what the book has to say on how to go about implementing its method.

Discussing this method the revelators tell us that children sometimes “evince a tendency to converse with imaginary companions. In this way a budding ego seeks to hold communion with a fictitious alter ego.” (Latin for “other self”) Then, in discussing communication with our Thought Adjusters, they say:

….the more effective technique for most practical purposes will be to revert to the concept of this nearby alter ego,… and then to recognize that the idea of the 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, divine alter ego that indwells him, and is the very presence and essence of the living God, the Universal Father. [Paper 91:3.7, page 997.5]

The revelators comment that the most practical way of developing continuous communication with our Adjusters is to carry on a conversation with our alter ego just as children do, was authoritarian enough for me to personally adopt the method. Compared with my previous efforts at Adjuster communication, I rated it as a great success. But even when it became habitual, I was conscious that something was missing. Communication with my Thought Adjuster remained a monologue–but that was all I had expected, so I really had no obvious reason to be dissatisfied.

Then one day I overheard my four year old grandchild doing this alter ego thing just as it is described in the book. I was intrigued by the fact that he was actually playing the part of the other characters exactly as if they were real people. Each alter ego character had a name, voice and mannerisms all of its own. And his conversation was definitely a dialogue and not a monologue. When I checked The Urantia Book references I found:

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.[Paper 91:3.1, page 996.7]

Even after reading this, I was still a bit slow on the uptake but eventually it sank in that the technique being recommended to us by the revelators was really intended to be a dialogue. We are supposed to be both ourselves and also to speak the part of our own Thought Adjuster, replying to ourselves exactly as if we were truly our indwelling God-spirit.

To take the part of God in a conversation would appear to be somewhat presumptuous if it were not for the fact that it has the sanction of the revelators who recommend it. But to do so effectively it becomes essential that we already have a reasonably accurate idea of what God might say to us in any particular circumstance. How can we do this? The Urantia Papers inform us that: “The nature of God can best be understood by the revelation of the Father which Michael of Nebadon unfolded in his manifold teachings and in his superb mortal life in the flesh.”

That comment leaves us without doubt that the best way for us to know how God might respond to us is to be thoroughly familiar with the life and teachings given to us by Jesus. Once we achieve this, in a dialogue in which we also take the part of our own Thought Adjuster, when an answer is required we simply need to ask ourselves, “What do we think Jesus would have done?”

Despite a long exposure to the Gospel stories and The Urantia Book, I still find it useful to have a flash card memory jogger covering major points about Jesus and what he taught. Short daily sessions with these serve to keep this knowledge to the forefront of my mind. We’ll take a look at this later if there is time.

That brings us back to our major topic of worship. The diversions were required because of what we encountered at the beginning: “The quality of our worship is determined by the depth of our perception which varies in accordance with the depth of our knowledge of God.”

From the book we’ve learned that our knowledge of God is best enhanced by knowing the life of Jesus and how he lived it. Similarly we’ve learned that communication with our Thought Adjuster is best promoted by use of the alter ego method. But why make a fuss about worship? Isn’t just trying to be like Jesus enough?

In seeking an answer to that question I came across this from the revelators:  “Worship is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences” and “Worship is the highest joy of Paradise existence.”

The clue to why the revelators place such a high value on worship may be in these words, “Man aspires by worship to be better–and thereby eventually attains the best.” Is it not true that when we truly admire someone or perhaps someone becomes an object of our hero worship, there is a natural tendency for us to want to imitate them, to be like them. So can it be that our sincere worshipping of God virtually automatically means that we will strive to be like God? If so, what qualifies as worship? Surely it has to be more than singing or shouting God’s praises. Let’s see what else the revelators have to say about worship:

  • Worship is the conscious and joyous act of recognizing a personal relationship with our Creator.
  • Worship is a transforming experience whereby the finite gradually approaches, and ultimately attains, the Infinite.
  • Worship is both a measure of the soul’s detachment from the material universe and its attachment to the spiritual realities of all creation
  • Realizing God, recognizing the reality of God, and seeking to be like God is both a spiritual experience and an act of worship.
  • In worship, we enter the domain of divine fellowship and spiritual values.
  • Worship is effortless attention, true and ideal soul rest, a form of spiritual exertion.
  • Worship is the technique of looking to the One for the inspiration of service to the many.
  • True worship is for its own sake. There is absolutely no self-interest element. God is worshipped simply for what we comprehend him to be.
  • Knowing God as Father, enthroning God in our hearts, experiencing the good, realizing the unity of truth, beauty and goodness, all form part of a valid worship experience.
  • Worship is self-forgetting–superthinking.
  • Jesus’ whole life was a worship experience.
  • The simplest form of worship is a sincere: “Thank you, God, for just being you.”  [not from Urantia Book]

So worship isn’t just singing praises to God. We actually worship God whenever we think about him with sincere gratitude, admiration, or awe in our hearts and a desire, even if unconscious, to be like God.

At the other end of the scale from where we are, there is Paradise worship.

“All the arts of all the beings of the entire universe which are capable of intensifying and exalting the abilities of self-expression and the conveyance of appreciation, are employed to their highest capacity in the worship of the Paradise Deities. Worship is the highest joy of Paradise existence; it is the refreshing play of Paradise. What play does for your jaded minds on earth, worship will do for your perfected souls on Paradise. The mode of worship on Paradise is utterly beyond mortal comprehension, but the spirit of it you can begin to appreciate even down here on Urantia, for the spirits of the Gods even now indwell you, hover over you, and inspire you to true worship.” (304)

During preparation of this talk a couple of thoughts came to mind that are “shareable.” We’ve been informed that worship is an innate component of Cosmic Mind that fosters the personal realization of divine fellowship. And discussing personality, the book has:

Personality cannot survive well in isolation. Man is innately a social creature; he is dominated by the craving for belongingness.  It is literally true, ‘No man lives unto himself.'[Paper 112:1.16, page 1227.6]

Particularly in early adulthood, many of us develop an overwhelming yearning to find the perfect partner to share our lives in happiness and bliss, and we load onto this imaginary partner a set of impossible-to-be-achieved attributes of our own making.  On reading about our craving for belongingness in the book, and having also read about the congenital urge we have from Cosmic Mind for divine fellowship, it struck me that our youthful desires to find the perfect partner is possibly an instinctive but misplaced yearning stemming from the combination of our desire for belongingness and our innate, constitutive urge to find God–in other words, even though we didn’t know it, God was the real goal of our youthful yearning–which often long persists into adult life.

Another thought that came to mind during preparation is “What might happen if a goodly  proportion of Urantia Book readers undertook the diligent practice of the alter ego method, exactly as it is recommended to us by the revelators?
Obviously the idea has been given to us for a reason–it is not just idle chatter on the part of its authors? So why is it there and what were the revelators expectations? A miracle maybe!