Version 2.0 / November 20, 2011
Unfolding the Cultural Matrix of Revelation
In this essay, I make a “cultural” argument that the Teaching Mission stream needs to embrace institutional change, and should consider hosting worship groups that double as both study groups and service groups—in fact, a trinity of interdependent groups or institutions. In other words, I advocate that we initiate and lead local communities whose culture is based explicitly on worship that is supported by the textual study of our revelations (Urantia revelation, Teaching Mission, and beyond) and that we evolve our group encounter with revelation so powerfully that we become functioning units in Light and Life culture—that being the objective of the Magisterial Mission. It is all explained below…
Let’s begin by remembering back to how most of us began our revelation journey. At some point a decade or two (or three) ago, we each found the UB. Then the majority of us attended study groups. Indeed, we often brought our friends or spouses to existing groups or we built groups ourselves. These groups continued to nurture us over time. Yes, we read the book in solitary study, but the revelation came alive in these little groups; and, over time, we developed important new relationships in and around these groupings. Sometimes these new relationships became lifelong friendships. Most of us wouldn’t be reading this if it were not for these friendships.
Many of us also went to Urantia Fellowship conferences and experienced the national scene. This introduced us to a larger community and to the “culture of the revelation” that’s been unfolding for decades. We learned methods of study, interpretation, prayer, worship, and came into contact with Urantians who were artists, thinkers, scientists, teachers, and “revelation administrators.” We were part of a pioneering community of souls influenced by an epochal revelation—and it changed our lives.
. . . And then, one day, out of the blue, the teachers contacted us. And these contacts weren’t just at random. The celestials had a specific recruiting methodology. In almost all cases, they used our study groups as their base of operation. The study groups were, at least in the first decade of the Teaching Mission, the locus of their transmissions and the dissemination of transmitted teachings. They were a kind of home base. And these study groups became the matrix of the birth of the Teaching Mission itself.
Sociologically, the TM and now the Magisterial Mission (MM) are extensions of the “home base” of Urantia Book study and the culture of the fifth epochal revelation fellowship locally, nationally, and even globally.
Undeniable Cultural Underpinnings
So, what does this mean for TM+ adherents? [“TM+” refers to TM + MM.] Well, we engage in varied TM-related activities these days (archiving, new transmissions, books, some ministries, etc.). But the old legacy of group study and Urantia-Book culture is now at our backs, pretty much forgotten. Yet, when you think about it, almost all of our activities depend upon and arose out of this early platform of development—or what I am calling the inherited cultural matrix of the revelation. Understandably, we’ve long ago graduated from focused study of the UB text; and we are now engaged in a huge enterprise of embellishment of the primary text. We are purveying our transcripts, communing with our teachers, or providing healing or teacher sessions to others. Rarely are we—as TM+ adherents—sponsors of study groups. We tend to leave that to the “Urantia mainstreamers.” If we want to do strictly UB-focused activities, we tend to go to established study groups or Urantia Fellowship conferences and we largely leave our TM+ affiliation behind. We are not blending the two disciplines these days. (And we are not easily permitted by the Urantia mainstreamers to do this “blending,” as evidenced by the Salt Lake City conference of 2011.)
Meanwhile, we continue to do our TM+ activities. This is all well and good, but what I hope to convince you of is that this more specialized and insular approach is not going to be sustainable over time. Socially and organizationally speaking, and especially in turns of “evangelism” or dissemination or even ministry, TM+ alone is a dead end.
Why? First of all, we all know how hard it is to make connections to people outside our circles on the basis of “TM alone” (not to mention MM). It is difficult (and even sometimes embarrassing) to reach out and share this material out of context. It is a tough job because those we reach out to are missing out on the “matrix” experience of UB study that always includes the environment and culture that grows out of study. Disseminating transcripts and doing transmission sessions helps individuals, yes, but it cannot over time build a community and a sustainable culture. The proof of that is our actual experience over the last decade, during which time we have fallen into relative stagnation despite rising activity on our behalf in the celestials realms—including the stupendous announcement of the Magisterial Mission. We’ve lost the edge of leadership because, I believe, we’ve forgotten a part of who we are.
The only reality I can think of that can make us sustainable over time, and can turn us into leaders again, is that the realization that we are still part of a community that is based on a culture that grew out of a revealed text. This is true regardless of the fact that we were long ago marginalized by the larger Urantia movement, making our work all the more difficult.
We old-timers feel the matrix culture in our bones and we know it; we’ve lived in the revelation matrix for years of our lives; but the outside world can’t locate us on their maps of spiritual endeavor because they have had little or no contact with the cultural matrix of epochal revelation. Without the matrix operational and accessible, 95% of new folks get lost and drift away, although most of them no doubt have a beneficial experience.
There’s a natural process of unfolding that we have been through, and that they haven’t.
Here in broad summary are the steps of that natural unfolding process that we’ve benefited from, and that are even now unfolding:
Vertical and Horizontal Extension of the Matrix
I am now going to try to put all of this together, so bear with me a bit more … We now have three essential elements that have emerged in this discussion: group UB study, the culture growing out of group study (that now includes collaboration with celestials), and group worship that creates a loving and active community. What I want to advocates is this: that when we introduce people to what we do, we introduce all three at once. And we do that because these three are integrally related—they are the revelation matrix fully realized.
Allow me to illustrate their connection in a new light. Consider this formulation of the list of three:
I argue that these elements are actually one, and are thus interdependent. They in fact amount to a trinity of sorts. The matrix of revelation always includes the “word”, the revelation in book form (or as transcripts). Then, the words of truth—when experienced in a group setting—naturally evolve into a community with a “revelation culture.” And third, if the community is to be blessed and holy, it resonates energetically with heaven through communion and group worship that leads to dynamic service, as members of the community support each other and spill their love across the planet to create a Light and Life culture.
In our own case, the Urantia text came to us first in time. As a result, what has been experienced as prior has been the study of the Urantia revelation. But of course, when it comes to religious living, it is communion (“first seek the kingdom of God!”) that always comes first. For the greater Urantia community, worship did not come first historically, but history doesn’t dictate our procedures now.
So bearing that point in mind, allow me to put all this into a formal theological matrix that schematizes what I have been trying to say all along. A sustainable approach to revelation work, especially if we are TM+ workers, is going to require that we touch all the important bases, as shown here:
TOTAL MATRIX OF REVELATION
|God the Father||source||stillness||communion||worship group|
|Eternal Son||‘Word’||revelation||study of texts||revelation culture|
|Conjoint Actor||action||service||fellowship||group ministries|
What I am trying to point out, then, is that there is not only an unfolding historical and cultural context of the fifth epochal revelation and its extensions; there is also a philosophic and theological matrix. In this larger “matrix,” everything is logically and organically related. The three elements in the matrix, as shown above, must rise together if we are to be whole. By touching all these bases each time and in each place, you get something coherent and sustainable.
In other words, no one of these elements ever works alone. A worship or communion group goes beyond words only because of words (i.e., the revelatory teachings and the culture around them). By the same token, the “word of God” ironically points us to silent, wordless witness. And powerful worship spills over into dynamic ministry in service to our fellows. Indeed, the goodwill that grows out of worshipping together creates trust and nurturance; that, in turn, allows members to discover their ministry gifts and to receive recognition and encouragement from their fellows in the light of their common experience of God’s love. Yet, the worship group is ill-informed and unskillful without the intellectual culture and community that grows out of a studious encounter with the word of revelation (including new transmissions).
Revelation Matrix Recommendations
All that said, allow me to close with these conclusions: the institutional setting for our work must, first of all, include Urantia Book study groups if is to be sustainable. Culture results from the provocative study of “the word”; this in turn leads to a cultural conversation and the beginnings of community—shared insight. There is no culture or community without an educational curriculum based in core texts. By the same token, community must be nurtured from God as well. Social peace requires God communion—group stillness. And group study and worship naturally lead to social service and ministry. (I like to use the term “Shift Circles” here in this connection because that phrase connects us to the Shift Movement that is forming Shift Circles worldwide.)
We sometimes forget that we long ago lost the cooperation of the larger Urantia movement. As a consequence, we are building an entirely new movement from the ground up, recapitulating all the elements of the matrix of revelation. But we must do what we must do. I therefore envision that we as a community commit to building our culture with simultaneous commitments to all three elements in the revelation matrix. I suggest that our worship groups be the primary commitment—for, spiritually and theologically, they are the font of all else. We have no business operating outside of that divine source of power. Then, when well established, the worship circle can differentiate into study and ministry as we invite new people into our communities.
I look forward to stillness and worship groups as the first step into relaunching the entire stream of the Urantia community on a new basis. The study groups and the ministries that will grow out of our direct encounter with God will change the planet—in fact, turn it upside down.