Teaching Truth Lovingly, Obediently, and Artistically

Thank you, Colombian hosts, for your generosity and labor in putting on this conference. Jesus said, “The greatest among you are the ones who serve everyone.” You are serving us all, and we are very grateful. What a privilege for us to come here, to meet you in person, to begin to love you, to learn from you, and to be able to speak with you.

I am especially happy to be here because in the past few years I have used a book on Latin American philosophy in my Introduction to Philosophy course. Now, Colombia is one of the countries in the region of the Amazon where Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos predicted that “a cosmic race, a synthesis of the four basic races of the present world,” will emerge fulfill “the divine mission of America.” “In contrast with the ethnic egoism and nationalism incarnate in the Anglo-Saxon people of Europe and North America, the new race will be characterized by a universalist spirit based on love.” (Summary by Jorge J.E. Gracia in his edited collection, Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, p. 53).

Argentinian philosopher Augusto Salazar Bondy discussed the question of how Latin American philosophy can be authentic, not merely be an extension of philosophy coming from Europe and North America. If we change that question to ask how Latin American students of The Urantia Book can bring forth their specific leadership, there are different ways to answer, but my proposal is this.

You can lead. How?

You can lead, first, by being who you truly are and, second, by following revealed instructions excellently in your cultural and planetary environment.

What is our top priority?

As you know, teaching is not our top priority. Most important is our relation with God. We shall know the Universal Father, receive the divine affection, and love him in return. That love, in its fullness, means that our “supreme desire is to become in our sphere as he is in his Paradise perfection of personality and in his universal sphere of righteous supremacy.” If I work too hard on my teaching and do not take enough time with the Father, I do not teach well.

The gospel, our basic message

If we go forth to teach truth, what shall we teach? There are many things to teach, and one of the most important is the gospel of the universal family. If we study and practice this well, we learn much about disseminating the teachings of The Urantia Book.Proclaiming the gospel is not only for the past, not only for priests, ministers, and evangelists. Jesus said,
“The persistent preaching of this gospel of the kingdom will some day bring to all nations a new and unbelievable liberation, intellectual freedom, and religious liberty. . . ” (178:1, 1930.6, 1931.2)
In his resurrection appearances Jesus called all believers to proclaim the gospel. To eighty believers in Jerusalem he said,
“That which the world needs most to know is: Men are the sons of God, and through faith they can actually realize, and daily experience, this ennobling truth.” (193:0, 2052.4)
A Melchizedek of Nebadon writes,
“All Urantia is waiting for the proclamation of the ennobling message of Michael, unencumbered by the accumulated doctrines and dogmas of nineteen centuries of contact with the religions of evolutionary origin. The hour is striking for presenting to Buddhism, to Christianity, to Hinduism, even to the peoples of all faiths, not the gospel about Jesus, but the living, spiritual reality of the gospel of Jesus.” (94:12, 1041)
Thus, proclaiming the gospel is for the present age and for us all.

Truth, beauty, and goodness

How shall we proclaim? We proclaim the gospel by our lives: in thought, word, and deed. First, we live the truth, or sometimes it is more modest to say that we increasingly grow in living the truth. We cannot live the fatherhood of God as limiting belief of the intellect. We can only live it as a liberating relationship, the faith of the soul. In my classes in philosophy and religion, sometimes it is appropriate to communicate spiritual truth. When I try to convey the fatherhood of God, sometimes I allow myself to worry about the criticisms that I think some students will have in mind. When I see myself through the eyes of that criticism, a shadow of unbeautiful feeling is present in how I say it. But when I live the reality of the relationship with Father, I bring living truth. Another aspect of proclaiming is to walk in beauty. When we experience the beauty of truth, we know the joy and liberty of the sons and daughters of God. This realization empowers aesthetic leadership. We also proclaim the gospel in goodness, by service, by following revealed instructions, by living the will of God.

From the core of spiritual truth to the fullness of cosmic truth

We have seen that truth, beauty, and goodness are dimensions of the gospel and aspects of our lives as truth teachers. In saying this much, have we said all of the essentials? No. Cosmic truth, universe beauty, and divine goodness go beyond the spiritual core. A Divine Counselor writes: The overstressed and isolated morality of modern religion, which fails to hold the devotion and loyalty of many twentieth-century men, would rehabilitate itself if, in addition to its moral mandates, it would give equal consideration to the truths of science, philosophy, and spiritual experience, and to the beauties of the physical creation, the charm of intellectual art, and the grandeur of genuine character achievement.The religious challenge of this age is to those farseeing and forward-looking men and women of spiritual insight who will dare to construct a new and appealing philosophy of living out of the enlarged and exquisitely integrated modern concepts of cosmic truth, universe beauty, and divine goodness.
Cosmic truth embraces the truths of science, philosophy, and spiritual experience (2:7, 43).
The truths of science are the truths of fact. When we get serious about teaching well, we have to explore the truths implicit in facts of different kinds. Recall that love is to be an “intelligent and wise affection” and that “Love is the outworking of the divine and inner urge of life. It is founded on understanding, nurtured by unselfish service, and perfected in wisdom.” So love has its scientific aspect of intelligent understanding as well as philosophical truths woven into its wisdom.One of the most important principles in teaching is to whet appetites. If you answer a question that no one is asking, people will not pay much attention. This fact raises the next question. How do you get people to come to you with their spiritual questions? Here is Jesus’ answer.
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. The measure wherewith truth seekers are drawn to you represents the measure of your truth endowment, your righteousness. The extent to which you have to go with your message to the people is, in a way, the measure of your failure to live the whole or righteous life, the truth-co-ordinated life. (155:1, 1726)
Now truth-coordinated living embraces scientific living as well as spiritual living. Scientific living is attuned to the facts of the present situation. Even the gospel itself is tuned to the facts of the present situation! We read that the Spirit of Truth…
“is designed to live in man and, for each new generation, to restate the Jesus message so that every new group of mortals to appear upon the face of the earth shall have a new and up-to-date version of the gospel, just such personal enlightenment and group guidance as will prove to be an effective solvent for man’s ever-new and varied spiritual difficulties.”(194: 2060)
The many sides of Jesus’ gospel have tremendous potentials for addressing different spiritual difficulties. But what difficulties does this generation face? Look around. Find out. Study. Ask people. Use your knowledge of the truths of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history. You do not need to be a scientist to proclaim Jesus’ gospel, but you do need to be alert to people’s spiritual difficulties so that you can better align your teaching with the Spirit of Truth.
One of the most important facts that guide teaching is the level of the other person’s receptivity. What is he or she ready to hear? When I violate the limits of the other person’s receptivity, I fail. When I work artistically within those limits, I succeed again and again. Does the person know God? Is the person hungry for more truth?
One of the most important principles of teaching was given by Jesus.
“When you enter the kingdom, you are reborn. You cannot teach the deep things of the spirit to those who have been born only of the flesh; first see that men are born of the spirit before you seek to instruct them in the advanced ways of the spirit. Do not undertake to show men the beauties of the temple until you have first taken them into the temple.” (141:6, 75:1, 75:8, 132.1)
If your conversation partner is already in the kingdom, already in the temple, then you may think of sharing the beauties of the temple. If the person is not already in the temple, he or she needs an artistic introduction to the gospel.
Whoever wants to introduce The Urantia Book to as many people as possible should remember this warning.
“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.” (75:8, 846).
If we follow Jesus’ principle, we will not confuse the call to proclaim the gospel to all the world with opportunities to introduce The Urantia Book to individuals who are ready.

 

Love and responsibility go together

In a resurrection appearance in Galilee, Jesus walked with the apostles two by two, asking them questions, and giving them instructions. To each pair of apostles he asked a different question. Do you love me? Do you trust me? Do you serve me? Do you obey me? Do you believe in me? (192:2, 2047) The first time I read this section, I felt a pain in my heart. These questions seemed to suggest a series of levels. I knew that Peter and John loved Jesus very much, and I knew that my love for Jesus was not as great as theirs. But I knew that I could obey, and I hoped that I would gradually get better at loving. Now, forty years later, I can say this.
Obedience without love is not obedience. And love without obedience is not love. We are told,
“Love, divested of truth, beauty, and goodness, is only a sentiment, a philosophic distortion, a psychic illusion, a spiritual deception.” “Religion stands above science, art, philosophy, ethics, and morals, but not independent of them. They are all indissolubly interrelated in human experience, personal and social. . . .” (196:3, 2096)
Yes, beloved friends, you are hearing me correctly. In talking about obedience I am sounding the note of duty. The note of duty is often unwelcome, but there are two ways of sounding this note. One way views duty in isolation, with its moralism and self-righteous anger, causing resentment, resistance, and refusal. The other way of sounding the note of duty is in harmony with the other two great functions of cosmic mind—causation and worship. Please recall them.
1. Causation — the reality domain of the physical senses, the scientific realms of logical uniformity, the differentiation of the factual and the nonfactual, reflective conclusions based on cosmic response. . . .
2. Duty — the reality domain of morals in the philosophic realm, the arena of reason, the recognition of relative right and wrong. . . . .
3. Worship — the spiritual domain of the reality of religious experience, the personal realization of divine fellowship, the recognition of spirit values, the assurance of eternal survival, the ascent from the status of servants of God to the joy and liberty of the sons of God. . . ..
. . . These three basic factors in reflective thinking may be unified and co-ordinated in personality development, or they may become disproportionate and virtually unrelated in their respective functions. But when they become unified, they produce a strong character consisting in the correlation of a factual science, a moral philosophy, and a genuine religious experience. (16:6, 192)
To connect duty and causation we try to understand the causes of our sometimes unwise desires, actions, and projects; and we try to understand the realistic, historical wisdom of the instructions we have been given. To connect duty with worship opens up the fullness of spiritual experience. We read, “The satisfying joy of high duty is the eclipsing emotion of spiritual beings” (25:1, 274).

In cosmic truth the truths of spiritual experience are balanced by the truths of science and philosophy. Cosmic truth progresses in the beauty of the rhythm of evolution and in the goodness of obedience to instructions from our superiors.

It is possible to be filled with enthusiasm for spiritual truth and fail in other ways. When the apostle Peter preached his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, he was full of love for Jesus and full of love for the spiritual core of truth, but he was not wise. He was not obedient. He allowed the amazing facts about Jesus to upstage the gospel. He was a passionate and charismatic leader. But by displacing the gospel, he did not serve the fourth epochal excellently.

How did Jesus organize his epochal revelation? After his baptism, he retired into the wilderness to make the great decisions that would guide his mission. He realized that there was a difference between his way and the Father’s way. His way was based on what was pleasant and profitable considering the immediate needs of this world. He had a strong desire to win people to believe in his epochal revelation and to accept his spiritual message. But he chose instead to reveal the Father, to do the Father’s will, using methods that were natural, ordinary, difficult, and trying. His great decisions mostly revolved around the theme of power. Jesus had great power at his disposal, and he decided in one aspect after another to limit his use of power to the requirements of the Father’s will.

We too have great power that we can misuse. We have the power of a new epochal revelation and the power of digital technologies. How will we use our power? Will we bypass the essential gospel foundation and rush to share the book itself? Or will we follow the way of revelatory evolution and evolutionary revelation? I am not proposing a simplistic and rigid dichotomy, but an emphasis that could make a big difference in our ability to cooperate with one another and be effective in the long term.

Artistic living and teaching

When we ask how to teach, the answer includes beauty. Here is a poem that tells the Aztec concept of flower and song based on truth.
The good painter is wise; God is in his heart.

He puts divinity into things; he converses with his own heart.
He paints the colors of all the flowers as if he were a Toltec.

The term “Toltec” means any great artist—poet, painter, sculptor, writer—who has a deified heart, which enables him to create. When we realize the dignity and greatness of some of the pre-Colombian people who inhabited this hemisphere, we become more humble. We know that holding a book in our hand is not a substitute for insight and character.

When we realize truth fully, we experience the beauty of truth. And when we perform our duty graciously, the beauty of goodness comes forth. In closing, here are some ideas on artistic living.

1. There are aesthetic virtues just as there are intellectual and moral virtues. The Deity paradigms of artistic activity show a design phase. For example, the Universal Father is the initiating thought, just as the Eternal Son is the expressionful word. And there is a performance phase (as the Conjoint Actor brought forth the billion perfect worlds of the central universe of Havona). And there is a phase of appreciation. A Creator Son in training studies the local universes of his older brothers before going forth to organize his own universe. If we study Jesus and other models teachers, we can better design our ministry, grow in our expressionful words of love and mercy and in our performance of the deeds of truth.

2. Like truth and goodness, beauty is both a quality of divinity and also a reality that we can live. Walking in beauty is lucid, gracious, and courageous, free from racing thoughts, tension, and the stress of our dangerously unbalanced world.
3. Beauty may be found in activities as diverse as humor, play, sports, gardening, and the fine arts. There is an artistic way of composing our various duties into a reasonable, doable, and harmonious order (so that we don’t get overwhelmed or burden ourselves with excessively high expectations). There is beauty in the very quest for artistic living, amid confusion, resistance, tentative steps, and fleeting successes. Through all this, artistic living finds ways to add an embellishing touch to give others a beautiful experience.
4. Sometimes we are clumsy and grouchy, sometimes skillful and grouchy, sometimes clumsy and joyous. Artistic living is skilful and joyous.
We discover beauty by growing in our enjoyment, delight, and joy. Beauty calls forth some positive feeling, even in the mind of perfect poise, some good-humored smile. This does not mean that we adopt a set of crystallized emotions and repress the full spectrum of human feeling.
What about the times when joy is impossible? There is also a beautiful way of undergoing the awful times when beauty is humanly eclipsed. Then suffering is fully human, and, after it is truly finished, there arises from the ashes the sense that, as all who work together in goodness do what they can, a preponderance of good prevails. There is not just a raw opposition of beauty and ugliness. On the whole, artistic living abides in a balance of joy.
5. Artistic living enjoys a sense of freedom that carries the individual beyond slavish engrossment in the goal that is desired. There is a rhythm of engagement (call it being “in the zone” or “flow”) and reflective distancing. At its height, artistic living is spontaneous.
6. Artistic living expresses progressive attitudes. A high proportion of great artists, musicians, and writers had great struggles in their lives, yet managed to bring forth beauty. Gradually we learn to “feast upon uncertainty, to fatten upon disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of immensity, and to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the inexplicable.”
7. For artistic living there is meaning and value in everything. In even the humblest of tasks one can find a dimension of value, even supreme value.

From what I have tasted of your hunger for truth and your artistry in song and dance, I am convinced of your ability to shine a light in Colombia, in South America, in the world, and in the universe.