The Challenge of Choice
As a clinical psychologist, I often present my clients with the assertion: “Most of our life is spent in a mindless state!” This is usually met with expressions of bemusement or puzzlement, or a knowing nod of the head. But what am I getting at when I make such a bold claim? The word “mindless” conjures up other words that add shade and texture to the underlying meaning: trance, automaton, mechanistic, and zombie. All these words aptly describe the human mind’s default condition. Even when we’re awake or “conscious”, we are in a perpetual state of ‘mind drift’; our minds seem to function independent of conscious choice. We have a sense that our minds just do their own thing, following their own agenda, while we as ‘personalities’ just go along for the ride!
One of the big names in the mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, made the following statement: “When unattended, our thinking runs our lives without our even knowing it.” (Coming to Our Senses, p. 406) A moment’s reflection will undoubtedly attest to the disturbing truth embodied in this aphorism. The human mind or ego seems to have a mind of its own which we often feel powerless to control. This has profound ramifications for life as we live it on this planet, Urantia. But what are its implications with regard to our prospects of future life beyond this mortal existence?
The Urantia Book presents us with this challenge:
Is unselfishness — the spirit of self-forgetfulness — desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. [Paper 3:5.13; page 51.12]
Does this sound familiar? Have we not all experienced “the incessant clamouring of an inescapable self for recognition and honour”? Is not the “self” in this context just a reference to the human ego, what we might call our animal origin mind or “adjutant mind”? But then the quote goes on to say that man has a choice: to dynamically choose the divine life while forsaking the self-life. What enables man to make such a choice is the Father’s gift of personality.
Throughout a universe of created beings and nonpersonal energies we do not observe will, volition, choice, and love manifested apart from personality. [Paper 107:7.5; page 1183.7]
So it is this endowment of personality from the Father that enables us to make choices. But do we exercise that ability to choose? When we’re caught up in our egos, it doesn’t feel as if we have much choice, or we seem to make poor quality choices.
As a psychologist, I help people to make high quality choices that will lead to positive mortal life outcomes. But The Urantia Book alerts us to the reality that the choices we make now have a profound effect on the quality of our life to come – life after death. My hope is that this article will help you the reader to make better life choices that will enhance not only this life but the life to come.
The Mortal Dilemma
When the Father gave us free will choice, from a human perspective he took a huge risk!
The mortal dilemma consists in the double fact that man is in bondage to nature while at the same time he possesses a unique liberty — freedom of spiritual choice and action. On material levels man finds himself subservient to nature, while on spiritual levels he is triumphant over nature and over all things temporal and finite. Such a paradox is inseparable from temptation, potential evil, decisional errors, and when self becomes proud and arrogant, sin may evolve. [Paper 111:6.2, page 1222.1]
Did all higher universe beings hold their collective breath when the Gods decided to give mortals moral free will? Mortals are subject to the physical limitations, instincts, and urges of the biological organism, the ‘selfish gene’, while at the same time possessing the freedom of moral choice and action, fuelled by a high intelligence animal brain supercharged by the 6th and 7th adjutant mind spirits. The potential for error and sin is very real.
But the Creators could also see other possibilities!
But through the intelligent use of the body mechanism, mind can create other mechanisms, even energy relationships and living relationships, by the utilization of which this mind can increasingly control and even dominate its physical level in the universe. [Paper 111:6.5, page 1222.4]
Through the power of his adjutant mind, the human creature has harnessed matter and energy to probe the mysteries of the universe, to construct complex super-cities, to build high-tech communication systems and to eradicate debilitating illnesses and disease. But man has also learned how to destroy himself and the many species that he shares the planet with. Ultimately it all comes down to choice!
Not surprisingly, human history has been dotted with crises that required the intervention of the Most Highs:
A Most High observer is empowered, at his discretion, to seize the planetary government in times of grave planetary crises, and it is of record that this has happened thirty-three times in the history of Urantia. [Paper 114:4.4; page 1253.7]
The Goal of the Evolutionary Universes
The solution to the mortal dilemma lies in our ability as mortals to subjugate energy-matter to mind while simultaneously subjecting the ego mind to the benevolent influence of divine spirit.
In the evolutionary superuniverses energy-matter is dominant except in personality, where spirit through the mediation of mind is struggling for the mastery. The goal of the evolutionary universes is the subjugation of energy-matter by mind, the co-ordination of mind with spirit, and all of this by virtue of the creative and unifying presence of personality. Thus, in relation to personality, do physical systems become subordinate; mind systems, co-ordinate; and spirit systems, directive. [Paper116:6.1, page 1275.1 emphasis added]
The key player in all of this is our personality. Through the power of choice, personality is the creative and unifying presence that makes it all happen. The presence of the Thought Adjusters (spirit) and our electro-chemical adjutant minds are obviously critical components of the system but unless the personality consents to the process, spirit will not be able to achieve mastery of the mind. In harmony with the prime directive, “be perfect as I am perfect”, spirit domination of mind is the prime goal of the evolutionary universes, to be fulfilled in the age of light and life.
Mortal man is a machine, a living mechanism; his roots are truly in the physical world of energy. Many human reactions are mechanical in nature; much of life is machine-like. [Paper 118:8.2, page 1301.7]
In our day to day lives, we behave like living machines. Our bodies host amazingly complex autonomic biological processes which we are only now beginning to comprehend. Even our minds display machine-like qualities. To demonstrate this, try focusing for just one minute on the sounds you can hear in your immediate environment. Do nothing for one minute other than notice different sounds. Don’t think about them or describe them; just hear them. We soon discover that our mind finds it very difficult to maintain this simple focus. Before long (usually as little as ten seconds), we notice our thoughts beginning to intrude on this space. We might renew our focus, but once again extraneous thoughts start to invade our consciousness. The ego mind is clamouring for your attention. Indeed, our minds seem to be ‘addicted’ to thinking! This brings us back to my initial quote: “Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamouring of an inescapable self for recognition and honour” [Paper 3:5.13; page 51.12].
But God has given us the solution to this problem: mind and spirit. Personality experiences consciousness through the faculty of mind. But personality can choose to alter that consciousness in such a way that we can tap into and execute the spiritual urges of the indwelling Thought Adjuster. This is something that we can learn to do. We can learn to consecrate our minds!
But man, a mechanism, is much more than a machine; he is mind endowed and spirit indwelt; and though he can never throughout his material life escape the chemical and electrical mechanics of his existence, he can increasingly learn how to subordinate this physical-life machine to the directive wisdom of experience by the process of consecrating the human mind to the execution of the spiritual urges of the indwelling Thought Adjuster. [Paper 118:8.2, page 1301.7]
Lower animals have limited functional ability due to their machine-like nature. There is however an inherent stability in this mechanistic existence. Lower animals don’t threaten the very survival of life on this planet; humans do! With the addition of superior intelligence comes the danger of imperfect choice. However, when coupled with indwelling spirit direction, humans can escape the limitations of their biology but preserve stability by aligning with spirit direction.
The spirit liberates, and the mechanism limits, the function of will. Imperfect choice, uncontrolled by mechanism, unidentified with spirit, is dangerous and unstable. Mechanical dominance insures stability at the expense of progress; spirit alliance liberates choice from the physical level and at the same time assures the divine stability produced by augmented universe insight and increased cosmic comprehension. [Paper 118:8.3, page 1301.8]
The great danger that besets the creature is that, in achieving liberation from the fetters of the life mechanism, he will fail to compensate this loss of stability by effecting a harmonious working liaison with spirit. Creature choice, when relatively liberated from mechanical stability, may attempt further self-liberation independent of greater spirit identification. [Paper 118:8.4, paper 1302.1]
As man shakes off the shackles of fear, as he bridges continents and oceans with his machines, generations and centuries with his records, he must substitute for each transcended restraint a new and voluntarily assumed restraint in accordance with the moral dictates of expanding human wisdom. These self-imposed restraints are at once the most powerful and the most tenuous of all the factors of human civilization — concepts of justice and ideals of brotherhood. [Paper 118:8.10; page 1302.7]
The future of the individual and of the planet depends on our willingness to impose these spiritual restraints on our behaviour. It still ultimately boils down to what we as personalities choose to do!
How Can We Achieve Spirit Over Mind?
As we break free from the restraints and limitations of our biology and learn how to subjugate energy-matter systems through the intelligent use of our electro-chemical minds, we need to simultaneously subject ourselves to the spirit guidance of our indwelling Thought Adjusters. But how can we do this?
In a nutshell, by dis-identifying with our adjutant minds and instead, shifting our identity to our morontia minds or souls which inhabit the superconscious realm of our existence. What exactly is superconsciousness?
It is “consciousness of consciousness” [Paper 130:4.9, page 1435.1]. In other words, it is a state of mind characterised by heightened awareness of the present moment. When I am superconscious, I have momentarily escaped from the “incessant clamouring” of the self or ego. It is not so much that I have stopped thinking, but that my thoughts have attained a much higher quality of expression, in contrast to the automatic, reactive, instinctive thoughts of the animal mind. This ability to attain superconsciousness is something that the human personality can choose to develop. It is our ability to experience superconsciousness that defines us as humans; it is not something that lower animals can experience.
It is in our superconscious mind that our Thought Adjuster dwells and functions:
But there is also a domain of prayer wherein the intellectually alert and spiritually progressing individual attains more or less contact with the superconscious levels of the human mind, the domain of the indwelling Thought Adjuster. [Paper 91:2.6, page 996.4]
Effectively, humans possess ‘two minds’, the electro-chemical animal mind or adjutant mind, and the morontia mind that functions within the evolving human soul. But what is the soul, within which this supermaterial mind functions?
“The soul is the self-reflective, truth-discerning, and spirit-perceiving part of man which forever elevates the human being above the level of the animal world. Self-consciousness, in and of itself, is not the soul. Moral self-consciousness is true human self-realization and constitutes the foundation of the human soul, and the soul is that part of man which represents the potential survival value of human experience. Moral choice and spiritual attainment, the ability to know God and the urge to be like him, are the characteristics of the soul.” [Paper 133:6.5; page 1478.4]
The soul is the new creation resulting from the cooperative relationship between the human personality via the material or animal mind and the indwelling Thought Adjuster:
The inevitable result of such a contactual spiritualization of the human mind is the gradual birth of a soul, the joint offspring of an adjutant mind dominated by a human will that craves to know God, working in liaison with the spiritual forces of the universe which are under the overcontrol of an actual fragment of the very God of all creation — the Mystery Monitor. And thus does the material and mortal reality of the self transcend the temporal limitations of the physical-life machine and attain a new expression and a new identification in the evolving vehicle for selfhood continuity, the morontia and immortal soul. [Paper 111:2.10; page 1218.8]
It is exceedingly difficult for the meagerly spiritualized, material mind of mortal man to experience marked consciousness of the spirit activities of such divine entities as the Paradise Adjusters. As the soul of joint mind and Adjuster creation becomes increasingly existent, there also evolves a new phase of soul consciousness which is capable of experiencing the presence, and of recognizing the spirit leadings and other supermaterial activities, of the Mystery Monitors. [Paper 5:2.5; page 65.1]
It is through soul consciousness that we are able to experience the spirit leadings of the Father fragment that indwells us. But this is not an automatic phenomenon! It requires a conscious choice from the human personality. We have been given a life machine and we have been given a pure, undiluted fragment of absolute deity, our Thought Adjuster. But we have also been given the gift of personality and the adjutant mind which enables the personality to experience self-consciousness.
Material evolution has provided you a life machine, your body; the Father himself has endowed you with the purest spirit reality known in the universe, your Thought Adjuster. But into your hands, subject to your own decisions, has been given mind, and it is by mind that you live or die. It is within this mind and with this mind that you make those moral decisions which enable you to achieve Adjusterlikeness, and that is Godlikeness. [Paper 111:1.4; page1216.5]
And as a self-conscious being, we have the divine ability to make moral choices, to make decisions that have eternal repercussions. Even the Universal Father, as represented by our indwelling Thought Adjuster, will not override our free will moral choices.
Having thus provided for the growth of the immortal soul and having liberated man’s inner self from the fetters of absolute dependence on antecedent causation, the Father stands aside. Now, man having thus been liberated from the fetters of causation response, at least as pertains to eternal destiny, and provision having been made for the growth of the immortal self, the soul, it remains for man himself to will the creation or to inhibit the creation of this surviving and eternal self which is his for the choosing. No other being, force, creator, or agency in all the wide universe of universes can interfere to any degree with the absolute sovereignty of the mortal free will, as it operates within the realms of choice, regarding the eternal destiny of the personality of the choosing mortal. As pertains to eternal survival, God has decreed the sovereignty of the material and mortal will, and that decree is absolute. [Paper 5:6.8, page 71.3]
As self-conscious moral beings we can use our minds to effect a transfer of our (the personality’s) identity from the material to the spiritual, from the adjutant mind to the morontia soul mind. And we do this by making sincere conscious (mindful) decisions to reach out and connect with our Father.
But selfhood of survival value, selfhood that can transcend the experience of death, is only evolved by establishing a potential transfer of the seat of the identity of the evolving personality from the transient life vehicle — the material body — to the more enduring and immortal nature of the morontia soul and on beyond to those levels whereon the soul becomes infused with, and eventually attains the status of, spirit reality. This actual transfer from material association to morontia identification is effected by the sincerity, persistence, and steadfastness of the God-seeking decisions of the human creature. [Paper 112:2.20, page 1229.7 emphasis added]
Jesus and the Spirit of Self-Forgetfulness: Choosing the Divine Will
The very heart of the prayer which he taught his disciples was, “Your kingdom come; your will be done.” Having thus conceived of the kingdom as comprising the will of God, he devoted himself to the cause of its realization with amazing self-forgetfulness and unbounded enthusiasm. [Paper 196:0.8; page 2088.3]
Jesus devoted his life to the doing of His Father’s will; a close examination of his life and teachings (the religion of Jesus) provides us with a model to follow: forsaking the self-life and choosing the divine life.
The keys of the kingdom of heaven are: sincerity, more sincerity, and more sincerity. All men have these keys. Men use them — advance in spirit status — by decisions, by more decisions, and by more decisions. The highest moral choice is the choice of the highest possible value, and always — in any sphere, in all of them — this is to choose to do the will of God. If man thus chooses, he is great, though he be the humblest citizen of Jerusem or even the least of mortals on Urantia. [Paper 39:4.14; page 435.7 emphasis added]
In every moment of our lives, we face this choice: to identify with the material life or the spiritual life, to choose the self-life or the divine life, to be selfish, or self-forgetful. But how did Jesus achieve this goal of total surrender to his Father’s will? What was the secret of his unparalleled religious life?
To him (Jesus), prayer was…..the mighty mobilization of the combined soul powers to withstand all human tendencies toward selfishness, evil, and sin. He lived just such a life of prayerful consecration to the doing of his Father’s will and ended his life triumphantly with just such a prayer. The secret of his unparalleled religious life was this consciousness of the presence of God; and he attained it by intelligent prayer and sincere worship–unbroken communion with God–and not by leadings, voices, visions, or extraordinary religious practices. [Paper 196:0.10; page 2088.5]
Jesus lived in a perpetual state of superconsciousness…he was always conscious of the presence of God, his Father.
How was Jesus able to accomplish this?
Rodan asked a similar question:
“How best can I awaken these latent powers for good which lie dormant in your souls?”
Look to your Master!
Even now he is out in the hills taking in power while we are here giving out energy. The secret of all this problem is wrapped up in spiritual communion, in worship. From the human standpoint it is a question of combined meditation and relaxation.
Meditation makes the contact of mind with spirit; relaxation determines the capacity for spiritual receptivity. And this interchange of strength for weakness, courage for fear, the will of God for the mind of self, constitutes worship. [Paper 160:3.1; page 1777.2]
Yes, Rodan exhorted us to follow the Master’s example of unbroken communion with our Father through sincere prayer and worship.
Prayer did not bring the spirit on the day of Pentecost, but it did have much to do with determining the capacity of receptivity which characterized the individual believers. Prayer does not move the divine heart to liberality of bestowal, but it does so often dig out larger and deeper channels wherein the divine bestowals may flow to the hearts and souls of those who thus remember to maintain unbroken communion with their Maker through sincere prayer and true worship. [Paper 194:3.20; page 2065.8 emphasis added]
Jesus taught his followers that, when they had made their prayers to the Father, they should remain for a time in silent receptivity to afford the indwelling spirit the better opportunity to speak to the listening soul. The spirit of the Father speaks best to man when the human mind is in an attitude of true worship. [Paper 146:2.17; page 1641.1]
What a contrast we would experience if we were to forsake “the incessant clamouring of an inescapable self for recognition and honour (our egos), and instead, as “listening souls”, choose the silent receptivity of true worship!
“It is not so important that you should know about the fact of God as that you should increasingly grow in the ability to feel the presence of God.” [Paper 155:6.12; page 1732.5]
How can we “maintain unbroken communion with our Maker” and “grow in the ability to feel the presence of God” if we are endlessly caught up in the compulsive chatter of our ego minds?
The Master admonished us to distance ourselves from the frenetic activity that characterizes modern existence and our animal minds.
Believers must increasingly learn how to step aside from the rush of life—escape the harassments of material existence—while they refresh the soul inspire the mind, and renew the spirit by worshipful communion. [Paper 156:5.12; page 1739.7 emphasis added]
…In the evolutionary superuniverses energy-matter is dominant except in personality, where spirit through the mediation of mind is struggling for the mastery. The goal of the evolutionary universes is the subjugation of energy-matter by mind, the co-ordination of mind with spirit, and all of this by virtue of the creative and unifying presence of personality. [Paper 116:6.1, page 1275.1]
In the microcosm of our personal mind experience, we can participate and cooperate with the fundamental goal of the evolutionary universes: the coordination of mind with spirit by means of the creative and unifying presence of personality! As self-conscious personalities, we can lessen the struggle for mastery that the spirit experiences in this process by choosing to consecrate our minds to the achievement of God-consciousness.
The great goal of human existence is to attune to the divinity of the indwelling Adjuster; the great achievement of mortal life is the attainment of a true and understanding consecration to the eternal aims of the divine spirit who waits and works within your mind. [Paper 110:3.4; page 1206.2]
We have been blessed with the gift of personality from the Universal Father, which means that we have the ability and responsibilty to choose our destiny through the decisions we make within the mind arena in which we live as personalities. [Paper 111:1.3; page 1216.4] Let us resolve to choose the divine life and forsake the ‘self’ life. Let us be determined like Jesus, to be self-forgetful and to make it our will to do the Father’s will. Let us aspire to God consciousness by being receptive to the leadings and urges of our Thought Adjusters in the realm of superconsciousness.
The great challenge to modern man is to achieve better communication with the divine Monitor that dwells within the human mind. Man’s greatest adventure in the flesh consists in the well-balanced and sane effort to advance the borders of self-consciousness out through the dim realms of embryonic soul-consciousness in a wholehearted effort to reach the borderland of spirit-consciousness — contact with the divine presence. Such an experience constitutes God-consciousness, an experience mightily confirmative of the pre-existent truth of the religious experience of knowing God. Such spirit-consciousness is the equivalent of the knowledge of the actuality of sonship with God. Otherwise, the assurance of sonship is the experience of faith. [Paper 196:3.34; page 2097.2 emphasis added]