The Age of Light and Life – and how to get there

The term “light and life” refers to the final stages of  planetary evolution when the kingdom of God becomes actual in an advanced world civilization.

This talk describes our glorious planetary destiny and two paths to it, as set forth in several quotes on light and life. The first one defines light and life as the integration of previous phases of normal planetary evolution; the second and third teachings centre us in Jesus’ gospel. Fourth, as things become complex, we do well to recall that light and life is marked by “refreshing simplicity.” And the fifth teaching portrays the quest for a better understanding and fuller realization of the comprehensible elements of Deity—truth, beauty, and goodness. [1]

Light and Life as Balanced Excellence Achieved Through Sequence 1.0 

Light and life is about balanced excellence, and the number one way to get there is to go through the normal sequence of epochs of planetary evolution.

The era of light and life . . . is the flowering of the successive ages of physical security, intellectual expansion, social culture, and spiritual achievement. These human accomplishments are now blended, associated, and co-ordinated in cosmic unity and unselfish service. [Paper 50:5.10, page 577:5]

Let’s look a little closer at the normal sequence of epochs of planetary civilization. The nutrition epoch cultivates our capacity to find food and survive, to accomplish self-maintenance. On that basis, the security age establishes self-preservation. On that basis, the material-comfort era promotes pleasure, self-gratification, ease in living, and time for culture. Then the quest for knowledge and wisdom places a premium upon education. Next, the epoch of philosophy and brotherhood inaugurates an age of moral reason, ethical responsibility, and the practice of the golden rule. On the basis of these physical, intellectual, and social stages of development, there follows the age of spiritual striving, in which religion ascends to “cosmic wisdom and personal spiritual experience. Education aspires to the attainment of meanings, and culture grasps at cosmic relationships and true values.” Finally, in light and life, all these human achievements are “blended, associated, and coordinated in cosmic unity and unselfish service.”

That is the direct path to light and life. But our world, after the rebellion against God and the default of Adam and Eve, we got off that path and are saddled in consequence with many problems. We have lost many gains that had been established, were starting to be established, or were planned for later establishment. Here’s an example.

The struggles of these early ages were characterized by courage, bravery, and even heroism. And we all regret that so many of those sterling and rugged traits of your early ancestors have been lost to the later-day races. While we appreciate the value of many of the refinements of advancing civilization, we miss the magnificent persistency and superb devotion of your early ancestors, which oftentimes bordered on grandeur and sublimity. [Paper 64:7.20, page 729:1]

And from the Adamic default, we learn a sobering lesson that applies in every age.

Never, in all your ascent to Paradise, will you gain anything by impatiently attempting to circumvent the established and divine plan by short cuts, personal inventions, or other devices for improving on the way of perfection, to perfection, and for eternal perfection. [Paper 75:8.5, page 846:4]

We cannot go backwards. We must go forward. But how?

In a parable class in Berkeley, California, in the 1970s, Nancy Grimsley came up with this one. She told of her observation one evening while she was walking by the water on the Berkeley Marina. The sun was down and the moon was full. There was a paved path, but she got off the path a few times and went down by the rocks at the water’s edge. She saw a highway of sparkling light coming straight from the moon down to her feet. Returning to the paved path and then leaving it again for the shoreline, she would again see a straight path of light leading straight to its source. Nancy took this as a metaphor: whenever we get off the path of wise living, there is always a straight path of light that leads us directly back to God.

Another metaphor. If you’re driving and using GPS technology that gives you directions on how to reach your destination, if you do not follow the instructions, you may hear a message that says “Recalibrating.” Then you’ll be given a new set of directions to lead you from where you are to where you want to end up. Since our planetary sequence of epochs has been complicated by rebellion and default, we see the need for a new sequence to lead us to light and life—let’s call it sequence 2.0.

Sequence 2.0: Light and Life Attained by Building a New Civilization on the Teachings of Jesus

A second approach to light and life is indicated in this quote.

Many intelligent and well-meaning men, even in the more enlightened age of these revelations, maintain that modern civilization could not have been built upon the teachings of Jesus — and they are partially right. But all such doubters forget that a much better civilization could have been built upon his teachings, and sometime will be. [Paper 154:4.6, page 1720:3]

So we need to build a new civilization on the teachings of Jesus. Everything we do will find a new basis, and these teachings will re-motivate us and lead us to change much of what we now do.

Let’s anchor ourselves in the core of his Jesus’ teachings, the many-sided gospel of the family of God. In our next main quote, Jesus assures us of our planetary destiny and then in his gospel expression tells what that destiny means and how to get there. I quote:

“No matter what blunders your fellow men make in their world management of today, in an age to come the gospel which I declare to you will rule this very world. The ultimate goal of human progress is the reverent recognition of the fatherhood of God and the loving materialization of the brotherhood of man.” [Paper 143:1.4, page 1608:1]

When we hear that the reverent recognition of the fatherhood of God and the loving materialization of the brotherhood of man is the ultimate goal of all human progress, then we know that Jesus is referring to the age of light and life.

Today humankind ache for the assurance of planetary destiny. I know how refreshing it is to take a break from my struggles from time to time and envision in my mind the progress of this world moving in fast-forward mode to light and life. In one or two seconds, there is no time to imagine the particular epochs that fly by. But that quick-moving glimpse of cosmic perspective refreshes my calm, my assurance, and my motivation.

Light and life was part of Jesus teaching from early on. Whenever we join his prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are expressing our hope for light and life and our willingness to do whatever we can to help attain it.

If we want to help bring the day closer when Jesus’ gospel will rule this world, we can join his movement, the gospel movement. This phrase “the gospel movement” occurs three times in Part IV, and we do well to play a responsible part in it.

The gospel movement is the secret of our progress to light and life. In Paper 170, we read the account of a sermon by Jesus on the kingdom of heaven, which develops in five phases.

  1. The personal and inward experience of the spiritual life of the fellowship of the individual believer with God the Father.
  2. The enlarging brotherhood of gospel believers, the social aspects of the enhanced morals and quickened ethics resulting from the reign of God’s spirit in the hearts of individual believers.
  3. The supermortal brotherhood of invisible spiritual beings which prevails on earth and in heaven, the superhuman kingdom of God.
  4. The prospect of the more perfect fulfillment of the will of God, the advance toward the dawn of a new social order in connection with improved spiritual living — the next age of man.
  5. The kingdom in its fullness, the future spiritual age of light and life on earth.

[Paper 170:4.2–6, page 1862.10–1863.4]

Light and life is a long way off, but we can work to directly promote phase four, the next age of man. Consider this call for volunteers.

Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings. If Christianity persists in neglecting its spiritual mission while it continues to busy itself with social and material problems, the spiritual renaissance must await the coming of these new teachers of Jesus’ religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men. And then will these spirit-born souls quickly supply the leadership and inspiration requisite for the social, moral, economic, and political reorganization of the world. [Paper 195:9.4, page 2082:9]

Thus the gospel movement prepares the way for general planetary transformation. For more information on how this happens, see, for example, the paper on Planetary Mortal Epochs. “Jesus has already shown the way to the immediate attainment of spiritual brotherhood”; but “the realization of social brotherhood on your world depends much on the achievement of the following personal transformations and planetary adjustments”: social fraternity, intellectual cross-fertilization, ethical awakening, political wisdom, and spiritual insight. [Paper 52:6, page 597–98]

Refreshing Simplicity

By this point, things may seem to be getting a little complicated. So we are ready for the next quote about light and life.

Life is refreshingly simple; man has at last co-ordinated a high state of mechanical development with an inspiring intellectual attainment and has overshadowed both with an exquisite spiritual achievement. [Paper 55:5.6, page 630:3]

Simplicity here comes from aligning with divine pattern. Spiritual attainment overshadows other developments: the shining of the glory of the spirit indweller, reigning supreme in the mortal heart, eclipses even exquisite material and intellectual attainments.

If hearing all these ideals is beginning to make anyone feel a little overwhelmed, pause to recall that our ideals are not the same as the will of God, because our ideals grow geometrically in a curve that quickly ascends upward, but realistically we know that our ability to live up to them grows arithmetically, like a line that goes up in way that is gradual and plodding.

There’s never enough time to do everything, but there’s always enough time to do the Father’s will. His way of simplicity, his will, his love, is our guiding thread.

When I think of simplicity, I think of naturalness, ease, and graciousness, in complete freedom from self-exaltation.   And the image that often comes to my mind is that of Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, whom I saw on television more than once as he was walking along the side of the pool and smiling to the crowd after winning yet another Olympic gold.

Light and life dominated by the pursuit of the understanding and realization of God in truth, beauty, and goodness

Given refreshing simplicity, we are ready for our last main quote, which most fully characterizes light and life.

Throughout this glorious age the chief pursuit of the ever-advancing mortals is the quest for a better understanding and a fuller realization of the comprehensible elements of Deity—truth, beauty, and goodness.This represents man’s effort to discern God . . . in mind, matter, and spirit. And as the mortal pursues this quest, he finds himself increasingly absorbed in the experiential study of philosophy, cosmology, and divinity. [Paper 56:10.2, page 646:3]

This fuller realization of truth, beauty, and goodness enables us to acquire Jesus’ beautiful wholeness of righteousness. And if we notice the intimate correlation of beauty and joy, then we see that these three supreme values are part of Jesus’ many-sided gospel.

I will now trace a few of steps along a path that leads in the direction of understanding and realizing Deity through truth, beauty, and goodness. First of all, recall the second beatitude. “Happy are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” [Paper 140:3.3–4, page 1570:5]

But what is righteousness? Righteousness means saying YES with our entire being to the whole package of the Father’s will. Jesus defined the kingdom once as including “faith in the effectiveness of the supreme human desire to do the will of God, to be like God.” It seems to me that “the supreme human desire to do the will of God, to be like God” is an excellent definition of righteousness.

Jesus expanded on the way of righteousness as follows.

Jesus talked at great length trying to show the twelve what they must be, not what they must do. They knew only a religion that imposed the doing of certain things as the means of attaining righteousness—salvation. But Jesus would reiterate, “In the kingdom you must be righteous in order to do the work.” Many times did he repeat, “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” All the while was the Master explaining to his bewildered apostles that the salvation which he had come to bring to the world was to be had only by believing, by simple and sincere faith. . . . But it was a difficult task to persuade these Galilean fishermen that, in the kingdom, being righteous, by faith, must precede doing righteousness in the daily life of the mortals of earth.” [Paper 140:10.1, page 1584]

What Jesus is setting forth here is a righteousness that is not something that we acquire by working for it. What we contribute is the supreme desire, the hunger and thirst. This hunger and thirst is a very special experience, and we do well to make time for it.

And remember that faith, for all its simplicity, is not only a gift that we receive but also a gift that we exercise. Jesus taught the need to “take the kingdom in spiritual power and by the persistent assaults of living faith” and “the necessity for using spiritual force for the purpose of breaking through all material resistance and for surmounting every earthly obstacle.” [Paper 166:3, page 1829]

The hunger and thirst becomes spontaneous when you know God and you receive the divine affection and love him in return; and you begin to realize that you can become like him, and you’ve had a taste of that, and you want more. You want it all.

In this context, perfection means a quality of righteousness that we can live now. It does not await our attainment of Paradise; it does not await light and life. Your hunger and thirst opens you to receive what he can clothe you with now. On a later occasion Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:

“My soul shall be joyful in the love of my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and has covered me with the robe of his righteousness.” [Paper 150:5.2, page 1682:4]

Since we acquire this gift by faith, we can relax any nervous anxiety about remote ideals, and come into that place of calm and quiet where we can be receptive. Leaving behind a racing mind and an over-committed schedule, we come to that place of being, the place of soul, the deeper self, the true self.

We come to that place of direct, one-to-one, personality relation with the Father. Would anyone like to take a minute of silence right now, to allow the Father to clothe you with his robe of righteousness? [MINUTE OF SILENCE]

Thank you.

When the gift of righteousness begins to take root in us, it is not rigid; it is not static. It expands. It unfolds into new growth, which carries us into the next phase of righteousness, which is not simply received as a gift. The beautiful wholeness of righteousness is something that we learn to exemplify. How do we learn that? Jesus went right to the heart of it when he spoke about truth-coordinated living.

“Consider the Greeks, who have a science without religion, while the Jews have a religion without science. And when men become thus misled into accepting a narrow and confused disintegration of truth, their only hope of salvation is to become truth-co-ordinated — converted.

“Let me emphatically state this eternal truth: If you, by truth co-ordination, learn to exemplify in your lives this beautiful wholeness of righteousness, your fellow men will then seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired.” [Paper 155:1.4–5, page 1726:1–2]

So now the character goal expands beyond the righteousness that we simply receive simply by faith. Now the goal is the beautiful wholeness of righteousness, and we learn to exemplify that wholeness by coordinating scientific living with spiritual living.

Most readers of The Urantia Book have lots of ideas about spiritual living, but very few have a concept of scientific living that is serviceable for this purpose. I have resources on scientific living that I would love to share with you, in particular, the first chapter of my book, Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Now we are in a position to consider in a little more detail the thought that truth, beauty, and goodness—the comprehensible elements of Deity—enable us to discern God in mind, matter, and spirit.

If we conceive of truth as an aspect of the nature of God, then we can look at the truths of science, philosophy, and spiritual experience—as expressions of divine truth. In the realm of science, God is the First Cause, whose laws of energy-matter establish a dependable framework of causation. In the realm of philosophy, God is the source of truth in the mind spheres; and the Creator’s design provides for us to sharpen intuition through reason on the way to wisdom. In the realm of spiritual experience, the one we know as our Father is both a personal love and a loving person; and he is the life of truth.

If we conceive of beauty as an aspect of the nature of God, then our recognition of divine beauty cultivates our feeling. We respond in joy to his love; to the beauties of the physical creation; and to the charm of intellectual art, which expresses the human recognition of divine beauty so that others can share it.

If we conceive of goodness as a quality of God, then we grow to where our supreme desire is to do his will. We want to climb the ascending steps of the ladder of the golden rule until we reach the top, the spiritual level of interpretation. And we strive to be like God, to acquire the beautiful wholeness of righteousness that we see in Jesus.

On your voyage to light and life, may you each enjoy balanced growth, following Jesus into ever-new realizations in your relation with the Father, and increasing effectiveness in your loving materialization of the brotherhood of man.

[1] This 30-minute presentation did not explore how light and life as an individual attainment is connected with the planetary attainment. But that connection is implicit in the concept of the brotherhood of man and in what Jesus said on sonship and citizenship:

“Show yourselves to be loyal citizens, upright artisans, praiseworthy neighbours, devoted kinsmen, understanding parents, and sincere believers in the brotherhood of the Father’s kingdom.” [Paper 178:1.17, page 1932:2]

Note that there is an unhurried approach to excellence that is a necessary part of life for us all. Balanced growth is required for each step of progress through the sequence of stages that are called the psychic circles. These circles, we are told, “have to do with personality status, mind attainment, soul growth, and Adjuster attunement. The successful traversal of these levels demands the harmonious functioning of the entire personality . . . .” (110:6.3/1209.3)  If not every mortal can expect to achieve the first circle in this life, every believer can achieve balance, symmetry, unification, as explained in the following quote. “Although the average mortal of Urantia cannot hope to attain the high perfection of character which Jesus of Nazareth acquired while sojourning in the flesh, it is altogether possible for every mortal believer to develop a strong and unified personality along the perfected lines of the Jesus personality. The unique feature of the Master’s personality was not so much its perfection as its symmetry, its exquisite and balanced unification.” (100:7.1/1101.5)  In context, we find Jesus’ symmetry described in terms of a broad array of virtues, with each virtue distinguished from the vice that can follow develop if that virtue is taken to extremes. Here are some examples. “[Jesus] was surcharged with divine enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotionally active but never flighty. He was imaginative but always practical. He frankly faced the realities of life, but he was never dull or prosaic. He was courageous but never reckless; prudent but never cowardly. He was sympathetic but not sentimental; unique but not eccentric. He was pious but not sanctimonious.” [Paper 100:7.4, page 1102:1]

So how do we acquire a symmetrical personality? Of course we have to engage ourselves in various types of situation to develop a range of virtues and avoid extremes. But this effort can succeed because Jesus works with us. Here is the promise: “Today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to co-ordinate human endeavors. He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: ‘If any man has Christ Jesus within him, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are becoming new.’” [Paper 100:7.18, page 1103:6]