Understanding People

(This is adapted from a presentation by Andrew Swadling at the 2023 Conference in Sydney)

As the topic of this conference is all about improving our ability to communicate the teachings, principles and values found in The Urantia Book, I thought we should investigate ways of learning to understand people first. Whether talking to existing readers, new readers, or non-readers of the book, it’s important that we learn to discern what kind of person we are communicating with and how receptive they may be to your message before you decide on what to say or how you’re going to say it. The last thing people want is to be preached at, or to be bamboozled with too much strange content. You need to try to figure out what kind of language and approach you’re going to use which will be different for each person. Therefore, we need to take the time to get to know them a little bit, listen well, and discover what kinds of things interest them.

There are many examples in The Urantia Book where character traits are mentioned, particularly in the case of the twelve apostles. We are also told about the nature and temperament of other characters, races, and heritage which highlight a level of importance given to the psychological inheritances and innate urges in individuals and races.


Definition: a person’s or animal’s nature, especially as it permanently affects their behaviour.

Here are some examples of the temperaments of some characters and races mentioned in The Urantia Book:

“[Gabriel] decided that the Hebrews possessed those relative advantages which warranted their selection as the bestowal race.”

“Of all couples living in Palestine at about the time of Michael’s projected bestowal, Joseph and Mary possessed the most ideal combination of widespread racial connections and superior average of personality endowments.”

Joseph, thefather of Jesus, came from a family that “… belonged to a long and illustrious line of the nobility of the common people…” He was a “…a mild-mannered man, extremely conscientious, and in every way faithful to the religious conventions and practices of his people.” “He talked little but thought much.” “…he was subject to periods of mild spiritual discouragement.” “These temperamental manifestations were greatly improved just before his untimely death and after the economic condition of his family had been enhanced…”

Mary, the earth mother of Jesus, “…was a descendant of a long line of unique ancestors embracing many of the most remarkable women in the racial history of Urantia.” “Mary’s temperament was quite opposite to that of her husband.” “She was usually cheerful, was very rarely downcast, and possessed an ever-sunny disposition.” “Mary indulged in free and frequent expression of her emotional feelings and was never observed to be sorrowful until after the sudden death of Joseph.” “But throughout all this unusual experience Mary was composed, courageous, and fairly wise in her relationship with her strange and little-understood first-born son and his surviving brothers and sisters.”

Here is a particularly interesting quote on one of the apostles, Philip the Curious:

“Jesus well knew that, if he once rebuked Philip for asking these annoying questions, he would not only wound this honest soul, but such a reprimand would so hurt Philip that he would never again feel free to ask questions.”

Apostles Character Traits

Following is a summary of some of the character traits of each of the apostles as described in The Urantia Book:


“Andrew was a good organizer but a better administrator.”
“Of all the apostles, Andrew was the best judge of men.”
“…a great gift for discovering the hidden resources…”
“…a man of clear insight, logical thought, and firm decision, whose great strength of character consisted in his superb stability.”

Simon Peter

“…well known … as an erratic and impulsive fellow.”
“…a man of impulse, an optimist.”
“…he persisted in speaking without thinking.”
“Peter was a fluent speaker, eloquent and dramatic.”
“…a natural and inspirational leader of men, a quick thinker but not a deep reasoner.”
“Peter did not have a deep mind…”

James Zebedee

“…he seemed really to possess two natures, both of which were actuated by strong feelings.”
“He had a fiery temper when … adequately provoked…”
“Next to Peter, unless it was Matthew, James was the best public orator among the twelve.”
“…no sense moody, he could be quiet and taciturn one day and a very good talker and storyteller the next.”
“…ability to see all sides of a proposition. ”

John Zebedee

“…he was prompt and courageous, faithful and devoted.”
“…greatest weakness was this characteristic conceit.”
“…John of after years was a very different type of person than the self-admiring and arbitrary young man…”
“…man of few words except when his temper was aroused. He thought much but said little.”


“…he was both honest and sincere.”
“…weakness of his character was his pride”
“…in the proper mood, he was probably the best storyteller among the twelve.”
“…would relieve the tension by a bit of philosophy or a flash of humor; good humor, too.”
“… was the odd genius of the twelve.”
“…was the apostolic philosopher and dreamer, … a very practical sort of dreamer.
“… alternated between seasons of profound philosophy and periods of rare and droll humor.”

Matthew Levi

“…a good businessman, a good social mixer, and was gifted with the ability to make friends…”
“…keen judge of human nature and a very efficient propagandist.”
“Matthew’s weakness was his shortsighted and materialistic viewpoint of life.”
“He did all his financial work in a quiet and personal way…”

Thomas Didymus

“…possessed a keen, reasoning mind…”
“…a streak of suspicion which made it very difficult to get along peaceably with him.”
“…he was superbly honest and unflinchingly loyal.”
“…a natural-born faultfinder and had grown up to become a real pessimist.”

James and Judas Alpheus

“…understood very little about the philosophical discussions or the theological debates…”
“…two men were almost identical in personal appearance, mental characteristics, and extent of spiritual perception.”
“…always were they ready to lend a helping hand…”
“Their minds were not of a high order”
“…good-natured, simple-minded helpers, and everybody loved them.”
“…twins served faithfully until the end…”

Simon Zelotes

“He was a fiery agitator and was also a man who spoke much without thinking.”
“Simon’s strength was his inspirational loyalty. ”
“Simon’s great weakness was his material-mindedness.”
“Although Simon was a rabid revolutionist, a fearless firebrand of agitation, he gradually subdued his fiery nature…”
“He was a rebel by nature and an iconoclast by training…”

Judas Iscariot

“He was a good thinker but not always a truly honest thinker.”
“…not really sincere in dealing with himself.”
“Judas was a good businessman.”
“…he had exaggerated ideas about his self-importance.”
“He had loose and distorted ideas about fairness…”
“He never seemed to see very far into any proposition.”
“…lack of imagination was the great weakness of his character.”
“…strongest characteristic was his methodical thoroughness; he was both mathematical and systematic.”
“He was not pessimistic; he was simply prosaic.”

The Six Sangik Races

Here are some traits of the six Sangik Races as described in The Urantia Book.

Red: “…tendency of their ancestors to fight among themselves…”

Orange: “…outstanding characteristic of this race was their peculiar urge to build…”

Yellow: “…first to abandon the chase, establish settled communities, and develop a home life…”

Green: “…was one of the less able groups of primitive men…”

Blue: “…nor did they ever completely overcome their tendency to fight among themselves.”

Indigo: “…did not entirely lose the desire to worship the Unknown…”

Discovering Personality Types and Temperaments

There are many modern methods that can help us understand and define certain types of temperaments or personalities. These methods are not there to define a person; however, they do help in understanding innate or well-established tendances.

In addition to understanding others, recognising your own personality type can help to highlight strengths and weaknesses for further development. Who knows, you may even change and improve habits for the next generation.

Following are two of the well trusted methods for discovering personality traits that may help understand a person better before trying to tell them about the Urantia teachings.

Big Five Personality Traits

This method is sometimes known as “the Five-Factor model of personality”. It is a grouping of five unique characteristics used to study personality. It has been developed from the 1980s onward in psychological trait theory. (see: Big Five Personality Traits)

Starting in the 1990s, the theory identified five factors and ten values. Each of the five factors are broken up comparatively with two of the identified values. These factors and values are as follows:

  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)
  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI was constructed by two Americans: Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who were inspired by the book Psychological Types by Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Isabel Myers was particularly fascinated by the concept of introversion, and she typed herself as an “INFP” (see the following three diagrams for descriptions of acronyms.) However, she felt the book was too complex for the public, and therefore she tried to organize the Jungian cognitive functions to make it more accessible.

MTIB Personality Types Key

Here is a table for instructions on how to work out a person’s personality type by using this key.

  E  Extroverts: are energized by people, enjoy a variety of tasks, a quick pace and are good at multiskilling.  S  Sensors: are realistic people who like to focus on the facts and details and apply commonsense and past experience to come up with practical solutions.
  I  Introverts: often like working alone or in small groups, prefer a more deliberate pace, and like to focus on one task at a time.  N  Intuitives: think less about evidence and more about future possibilities, think abstractly instead of on the details of a situation.
  T  Thinkers: tend to make decisions using logical analysis, objectively weigh pros and cons, and value honesty, consistency, and fairness.  J  Judgers: tend to be organised and prepared, like to make and stick to plans, and are comfortable following most rules.
  F  Feelers: tend to be sensitive and cooperative and make decisions based on their personal values and how others will be affected by their actions.  P  Perceivers: prefer to keep their options open, like to be able to act spontaneously and like to be flexible with making plans.

Personality Types

Going by the above table, you can figure out a general overview of a person’s personality by choosing the top four traits you consider the person to have by combining one trait from each column in a quadrant. Then work out the Personality Type by using these formulas:

The 8 Personality Forming Qualities:

E = Extraversion, T = Thinking

I = Introversion, F = Feeling

S = Sensing, J = Judging

N = Intuition, P = Perceiving

Therefore the 16 categories of Personality Traits according to Myers-Briggs are:

ISTJ = The Inspector, ISFJ = The Nurturer, INFJ = The Counsellor, INTJ = The Mastermind

ISTP = The Craftsman, ISFP = The Composer, INFP = The Idealist, INTP = The Thinker

ESTP = The Doer, ESFP = The Performer, ENFP = The Champion, ENTP = The Visionary

ESTJ = The Supervisor, ESFJ = The Provider, ENFJ =The Giver, ENTJ = The Commander

You may find it helpful to honestly work through the MBTI components for yourself.  If you wish to take a Big Five test, and obtain more detailed results about yourself, you can do this online (here).

Influencing Factors

In addition to all the above, let’s not forget that there are also influencing factors to take into account such as environment, culture, circumstances, relationships, motivations, education, health, revelation and mood.

And how do we read all the variables?

Learn < > Respond < > Relate < > Adjust < > Restrain < > Persist

The more we understand of ourselves and others, the better chance we have of perfecting the art of communication and truly obtaining mutual understanding. And the more we understand a person, the better equipped we should become in communicating the teachings of the revelation in a way that will engage rather than repel.