We don’t really know what we are talking about. We know that the 5th Epoch is our own idea. We are in the position of small children trying to form ideas about the big wide world. But bear with us. The URANTIA Book points out that everything the finite mind can think about is more or less erroneous. But the process of learning is one of setting up frames of reference in which to think. When faced with what we do not understand, then we postulate a frame of reference in which to think about what we don’t understand. Such reference frames are always wrong in themselves, but they constitute the bridge to the next frame of reference which is a bit less wrong than the previous one. So does evolution proceed- laboriously erecting scaffolding in the hope of comprehension, – only to have to demolish the scaffolding to reach a still higher level which only becomes apparent from the top of the last construct. So Nigel, Vern and I, when we conceived this conference, decided to ask you to accept our frame of reference as a working hypothesis, for the purpose of erecting some scaffolding to see what we can see when we get to the top. We are not for one minute suggesting that there is any factual basis for our speculation.
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The URANTIA Book is sometimes referred to as the 5th Epochal revelation. This derives from pages 1007,8 where the five religious revelations of epochal significance are listed – with the Urantia Papers listed as No 5. The book does not call itself the 5th Epochal revelation – but for the purposes of this conference we are assuming that it is. This is a liberty for which we ask your indulgence.
We have gone further. We have dared to postulate and define the 5th Epoch. And I’ll ramble on a bit about that now.
We are all familiar with the notion that our planet Urantia and its peoples and civilisations are a bit on the backward side. Our various historical misfortunes, particularly Caligastia’s going into rebellion with Lucifer, and the consequent Adamic default, have left us in a mess. We are retarded, disorganised, ignorant and confused.
Between where we are now, and the state of light and life, there is a large gulf to be bridged. The approach to the era of light and life is to be one of fairly intense revelation and learning. Before we can begin to learn rapidly, and benefit much from really substantial revelation we need some remedial work. So we have decided to refer to this period of remedial work as the 5th Epoch – the epoch of the Urantia Papers.
Please note – we are not suggesting that this epoch will lead us into the era of light and life. It won’t. What it will do is bring us to a point – the ‘threshold point’ We have decided to call it – from which the acceleration to light and life can begin.
As a backward planet, we cannot receive very much in the way of revelation. We can’t understand it, our animal habits are too strong, our intellects are to feeble, and our traditions too ignorant of reality for us to be able to absorb and adjust to it. What we do manage to grasp we tend to pervert and fanaticise. All we have managed so far is a “complex reflection of shared delusions” – eloquently put by Nigel – based more on adjutant mind stimuli rather than spirit.
Before any rapid progress can be made we need to develop capacity – and The URANTIA Book is designed to facilitate this.
We think, then, of the 5th Epoch as being the remedial phase during which humanity will evolve to a threshold from which it is possible for our celestial supervisors to risk stepping up the intensity of revelation. At the moment they can’t risk it. But if we can be led to the threshold level then maybe the Most Highs will be game to stimulate us hard enough to accelerate us to light and life.
That’s the general frame of reference we are asking you to think within. It is not real, or true. We know that. It is one possible frame, and it seems to us sufficiently feasible that we ask you to accept it for the duration of this conference. So, we propose a frame of reference, and my job is to introduce it.
Now as you know – “the advances of true civilisations are all born in the inner world of mankind” [Paper…page;1220].
Civilisation progresses because individuals have insights, put their insights into practice and generate progress. Nigel has developed a train of thought about this inner world of mankind and he will follow me in presenting it to you.
It is interesting to a imagine creation from God’s point of view and compare it to ours. God – beyond time and space – says let there be a finaliter called Rita and Rita as a finaliter appears in his presence. She has been created. From God’s point of view on the absolute level it happens as soon as he thinks of it.
Rita – down here in time and space – has a somewhat different view of her own creation. She decides to do God’s will, goes through the morontia regime, fuses with her adjuster, goes on through local and super universe careers, struggling all the time to know god’s will and to do it. After her Havona experience she eventually staggers onto Paradise and is mustered into the corps of the finality after maybe one trillion time-space years.
God has created. Rita has been inside the process of creation – her own creation – participating in it herself. God has set up time-space so that Rita, instead of popping into existence instantaneously can experience and participate in the process of being created. Isn’t time-space wonderful? Nigel will lead us into some of its finer points.
Vern is to follow up this afternoon with his view of personality. The idea that personality is one of the four fundamental realities of the universe is central to the understanding of the 5th Epoch. Our cultural view of personality as something with which we are vivacious at a party, or on TV, is one of our greatest limitations. Personality is a fundamental reality – transcending finite and even absonite existence. Along with matter, mind and spirit it actually constitutes reality. Personality, after all, is what makes us spontaneous because only personality can be free of antecedent causation. All other aspects of reality are locked into the prison of cause and effect. Only personality can break out of it, and be creative. Vern will discuss how the 5th Epoch may see humanity absorb this clearer view of personality.
How did we come to the 5th Epoch notion?
Well, we were speculating about how the Most Highs of Edentia might view Urantia, and what opportunities might be open to them. We agreed that our starting point had to be the inner world of mankind – the source of all progress. But the problem is that the various different civilisations and cultural groups all have rather different conceptions of this inner world. Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Animists, etc., Scientists and Secular Humanists – all these groups, to some degree, are defined by their experiences of and beliefs about this inner world. And these experiences and beliefs can be very different. The fighting among them for Doctrine, Power, Social influence and Membership often leads to bloodshed. So we won’t be able to make much progress with our inner worlds until there is one we can share. We are not talking a common inner world language. The concepts are different though much of the underlying motivation is compatible – the one with the other.
No doubt the Most Highs have seen it all before. But they can’t do much with this unless we can agree on the categories in which we think. So they would have to be planning some kind of amalgamation of those cultural traditions which describe our inner worlds.
It seems likely that the remedial phase – the 5t Epoch – will, among other things, be devoted to bringing together and harmonising the various cultures and traditions now extant on Urantia. After all, most of the existing traditions have their roots in the 3rd and 4th Epochs – those of Melchizadek and Jesus.
But until mankind as a whole shares an inner world, revelation is bound to be divisive as the different traditions make their different responses to it. In other words, the threshold level – from which the stimulation of advanced revelation can begin – is that level of planetary culture where humanity – or at least the majority of us – share the same inner world.
What on earth does this mean? We are warned against uniformity, against the idea of trying to fit diverse points of view into a single package. Diversity of opinion and belief reflect a freedom from coercion which is highly desirable. So what does it mean to say that humanity can share an inner world?
We are referring here not to uniformity of beliefs, but to the underlying frame of reference from which such beliefs develop.
It’s not easy to talk about this frame of reference, because its elements are so largely unconscious. They are the assumptions about reality that we grow up with, without thinking about them very much – things which we take for granted about the world and the universe, ourselves and others, which constitute the background to our awareness. They are the canvas onto which we paint our thoughts and ideals.
An example of this which I think illustrates the concepts very well concerns the nature of mind. Most of the world’s cultures, and certainly our own Western culture conceives of mind as something which is generated by the brain. We don’t reason about this, but take it for granted. Various specialists study various different aspects of the brain, and of the mind, and observe the interactions between them, but everybody assumes that the mind is the output of the functioning brain. This is our culture’s frame of reference about the mind.
But if it should be a fact that mind is a universal phenomenon originating outside the brain, which the brain apprehends and interprets, but does not actually generate or produce, then our understanding of what mental activity is about is likely to alter significantly. The speculations of psychologists about the mind’s functioning would take rather different tack if the frame of reference shifted in this way.
Now, as you know, The URANTIA Book is suggesting just that. What hope then do psychologists, operating in the old frame of reference, have of understanding much about mind?
Do you see what I’m trying to say? This is an example of the significance of the frame of reference which our culture assumes rather than perceives. This is one example, but if you multiply this by all the assumptions our culture makes about the nature of reality – and they are hard to identify because they are so basic they are virtually unconscious – but if you imagine all the others, then you can begin to get a feel for the significance of the cultural frame of reference.
Now this is the kind of thing we are referring to when we speak about sharing the same inner world. While the various different – ologies. and .isms – are all making different assumptions about what is real of what is not, what is happening in the world and the universe, and what reality is all about, then the ability of the Most Highs and their agents and collaborators to actually reveal anything much to us is rather limited.
Only when we do actually share more or less the same inner world can much in the way of revelation take place.
Now we – Nigel, Vern and I – are asking you to accept that the 5th Epoch, the epoch of the Urantia Papers, is the epoch which will establish the shared inner life – this common frame of reference. It is not that we all have to think, feel and believe the same. It is rather that we have to share the assumptions about reality which underlie our thinking, feeling and believing.
Now this has led me to some speculation about what might actually be going on. Don’t take this too seriously, please. It goes like this. The second and third epochs – those of the material sons and Machiventa Melchizadek – gave men the confidence to try to do things. Prior to them, men cowed in superstitious dread, unable to do anything but accept and endure, too afraid of the spirits and demons to do anything more than secure the next meal and the requirements of their habits. But the codifying of superstitious dread into formal religious systems gave rise to man’s ability to do things – to attempt to move things around, to rearrange, to organise, to build, to fight wars and so on. Men developed a bit of confidence. Reality was not entirely the play thing of capricious spirits – though they were still to be reckoned with.
With the 4th Epoch – that of Jesus – real confidence began to develop, because not only were the spirits organised under a single authority, but that authority, God, was benevolent. People began to do even more, and after a while it dawned on people that God played reality according to laws. He always did the same thing in the same way – and thus what we now know as science became possible.
Science got carried away with itself, and now imagines that there isn’t a god at all -just laws to be discovered and put into practice. And whatever we might think about that, it has given rise to a whole new civilisation – one which specialises in the manipulation of energy-matter. Some would argue that its entire frame of reference is contained within this principle – the ability to manipulate energy-matter into usable forms – but I think that is an extreme view. In my view, the confidence in universal law and the ability to use energy-matter is blending with the underlying values growing out of the 3rd and 4th epochs – and something really new is appearing. For the first time, a frame of reference is establishing itself which has a truly global reach. Most cultures can participate in the scientific viewpoint – there may be some exceptions – and everybody wants the results – material abundance, disease control, extended lifespan, fast information flow, leisure etc. I know there are some nasty by-products. – cultural collapse in some regions, transitional breakdown and stress, fear of meaninglessness, confusion etc. But the potential benefits out-weigh these. No one wants to go back to pre-industrial times.
Okay, so if you are one of the Most Highs of Edentia surveying this scene you may not be all that discouraged. True, it’s a mess. But look: for the first time the beginnings of a truly global frame of reference has appeared. It is conceivable that the benefits of secular science could be extended to all cultures. It is conceivable that the ethics of the 3rd and 4th epochs could adapt to secular science. It is conceivable that the information age may spread serviceable fashions and ideas to most cultures. It is conceivable that these fashions and ideas may even contain the ideals of the 4th Epoch, so that over a period of time a common frame of reference for progressive humanity may form.
Put The URANTIA Book into this cultural soup and be a bit optimistic. May it be that the Most Highs and their agents and collaborators plan to harness this unifying materialistic urge by addressing the sense of meaninglessness which accompanies it? While our terrific physicists, astronomers, microbiologists, engineers, marketers, financial gurus and I.T. whizzes can do extraordinary things, they cannot actually explain much about what underlies their achievements. They don’t know themselves. People become reluctant, even scared, when they realise they don.t know what it.s all about. when they see that the old ways of settling the big questions are no longer adequate.
But this is where the Urantia Papers can provide an exquisite satisfaction, harmonising science and religion, providing modern answers to age old questions, being reachable at many levels by different kinds of intellect. In so doing, these Papers form a basis for that frame of reference, the shared inner life of mankind. And it’s only possible for The URANTIA Book to be influential because the secular revolt against organised religion produced the modern world and its material skills and development. And it is these same material skills and development which allow the book and its message to spread. Just as the Adjusters use material gravity to travel to us, so do the Urantia Papers use physical development to propagate and spread.
Instead of contrasting material development with spiritual, and worrying about the imbalance – the possibility of cultural self-destruction through over rapid material progress – maybe we could look at material development as the carrier wave of spiritual growth. The danger of material progress bringing on a dark age by out-running spiritual growth (p.1302) may be counteracted by co-opting material progress to serve the purposes of the necessary acceleration in spiritual growth.
But let’s not kid ourselves that very many people will read The URANTIA Book. They won’t. Not many people understood Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein either. But just as Newtonian physics and Einsteinian relativity have become integral to the common frame of reference of modern humanity, so too will the primary themes of the Urantia Papers. These truths will become woven into our
set of cultural assumptions because they are relatively true, because they work for our time and place, and because more and more people will reflect in their lives a deepening understanding of these things. And when enough individuals team such insight and understanding with experience, the world has changed.
We postulate that this may be what is going on.
This can occur in many ways. Those who follow ordinary careers – made super-ordinary by the attempt to follow these careers as God would like us to do – are the keys to the spread of the 5th Epochal revelation.
Remember what Jesus said to the inn keeper:
Minister your hospitality as one who entertains the children of the Most High. Elevate the drudgery of your daily toil to the high levels of a fine art through the increasing realization….[Paper …, page 1475]
But the Papers are helping because they are providing a common vocabulary in which the concepts of meaning and value can be discussed:
These are all notions with which most cultures are familiar. From now on we can all be talking about the same thing when we use these terms.
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I have racked my brains to try to get a feel for the flavour of the 5th Epoch – how it may differ from the past:
- Less emphasis on the sacred, more on the information. There will not be a sacred institution. There is just information about how to live your life. This leaves a hole – how will the message be propagated? What about groups? Don’t know. But people will no longer allow themselves to be intimidated into supporting special groups and causes. It is all voluntary – information rather than “the word”. Perhaps the 5th Epoch will be the first in which religion survives without an institution (p.1083).
- Knowledge of the big picture makes everyday life a much more attractive prospect than previously. Mystery is inherent in the finite’s inability to reach the infinite. As finite beings we will never understand much about the infinite. But the important thing is how we live our everyday lives. This is the key to real progress. If we can see what it is all for, we are less inclined to be dissatisfied with our lot. Jews in Babylonian captivity. Struggle between Mithraism and Christianity.
These are extreme examples. It is in the arena of everyday life that most of us do God’s will.
- Inside/outside. The conflict between our ideals and our life can be a bit less intense. People can increasingly see that the two – the inside and the outside – are working together. This is fundamental to the evolutionary process. You don’t have to deny ideals in order to fulfil a reasonable outer life. People will begin increasingly to realise that there is a massive network consisting of a fundamental reality inside them, cooperating with a number of influences outside them, which not only defines reality, but urges them to participate in it. Instead of living in dread of the consequences of our mistakes..woe is sinful me..we begin to shrug them off and learn from them.
- The 5th Epoch does not drive us. In the frames of reference of previous epochs we were inclined to be driven by fear into what we saw as a refuge of religious contemplation. The 5th Epoch lures us, drawing us forward with the vision of a vast universe in which we can find a meaningful place with satisfying work to perform. The URANTIA Book’s depiction of evolution, as a process of us participating in our own creation by our own efforts in partnership with God, is a truly sublime image. With a carrot like that, who need a stick?
- The 5th Epoch will redefine the relationship between science and religion. It is not necessary to deny science in order to be religious, or to deny religion in order be scientific. Science and religion are both forms of information. Science is information about matter. Religion is information about spirit. Science without religion produces fear and despair – modern nihilism. Religion without science produces superstition and fanaticism – paranoid and self-righteous fundamentalism.
The 5th Epoch will put the two things together. It sees the chasm between matter and spirit which only mind can bridge. All notions of spirit being able to influence matter directly are passé. I think this also implies the impotence of prayer to influence matter – to change God’s mind, as it were. All prayer can do really is reconcile the praying person to God.
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This has been an attempt to introduce the “inner world of mankind” and to suggest that the Urantia Papers have been tuned and targeted to strike directly at this point of planetary leverage. After the break, Nigel will look more closely at this inner world, and how it comes to be.