Our Urantia Book Internet School Pedagogy
This essay is offered as a context exploration of our Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) pedagogy and methodology in response to a provocative question: can our encounter with newly-revealed, epochal truth be facilitated successfully by employing evolutionary techniques of education or can revealed truth be comprehended using the interpretive teachings of the evolutionary religions of authority?
I would observe that it is the combined nature of revelation and the revelatory process which together determine how revealed truth is encountered, accessed, experienced, perceived, and learned to facilitate its integration into the soul of each truth seeker. I do not believe that this is possible using intellect alone, but only by accessing truth in our progressing morontial (soul) consciousness. Some two thousand years ago, Jesus sought acceptance and certification of his revelation by the existing, established, evolutionary religious authorities—the Scribes and Pharisees. But as revealed truth designed to uplift and supplant existing evolutionary beliefs, it was rejected at the time by these leaders. Nonetheless, it was eventually spiritually integrated into human consciousness via the living power of Jesus’ life, the Spirit of Truth, the consequential, universal bestowal of Adjusters, and at the present time by the gift of the fifth epochal revelation to our world. Indeed, Jesus’ crucifixion represented the conscious evolutionary response by religious authority to destroy the newly-revealed truths which were seen as a challenge to existing beliefs and theologies. Is that response a warning for us today?
With The Urantia Book gripped lovingly in our hands, have we ever been tempted to wonder what the evolutionary response to new revelation might look or sound like today? This is a useful exercise to help us distinguish between newly revealed truth and the beliefs acquired over centuries which now undergird the evolutionary religions of authority. As you set forth on this examination, you may find it unsettling to learn that a new revelation is always contaminated by the older evolutionary beliefs. [93:7.4] Why is that? Perhaps it is because the techniques of evolutionary education and the religions of authority were designed to teach and interpret what is already known and believed, including truths previously revealed. Only revelation can teach new truth not yet known, experienced, and perceived. Nonetheless it is better to know the risk of contamination than to deceive ourselves into thinking that what we consider to be the higher meaning of newly-revealed truth is perhaps no more than a projection of what we already know and believe.
Toward the final days of our Creator Son’s bestowal on our planet some 2,000 years ago, Jesus warned the Apostles to beware of the support of the multitudes who came to see the Master and hear his words. One rest-day in camp he told them this:
And so you must not allow yourselves to be deceived by the great crowds who heard us in the temple, and who seemed to believe our teachings. These multitudes listen to the truth and believe it superficially with their minds, but few of them permit the word of truth to strike down into the heart with living roots. Those who know the gospel only in the mind, and who have not experienced it in the heart, cannot be depended upon for support when real trouble comes. [Paper 177:5.2, page 1927.3]
So, as we buckle down to really experience, perceive, comprehend in our hearts and apply in our lives the newly-revealed truths offered by the revelators in The Urantia Book, we would do well to choose the most effective methodology, informed by revelation itself, to facilitate our encounter with living truth. Lurking behind our choices is yet another question. Mota 16 alerts us to the seemingly counterintuitive fact that truth must be experienced BEFORE it can be perceived… Moreover, if the experience and perception of living truth is then further influenced by the unique personality of each child of God, can it really be “taught” by the older evolutionary and often interpretive techniques of education and authoritative religion? Here is a challenging Melchizedek clue:
Evolutionary religion is sentimental, not logical. It is man’s reaction to belief in a hypothetical ghost-spirit world—the human belief-reflex, excited by the realization and fear of the unknown. Revelatory religion is propounded by the real spiritual world; it is the response of the superintellectual cosmos to the mortal hunger to believe in, and depend upon, the universal Deities. Evolutionary religion pictures the circuitous gropings of humanity in quest of truth; revelatory religion is that very truth. [Paper 92:4.3, page 1007.3]
There is a lot to unpack in this little piece of revelation, but it is worth the effort for each truth seeker to meditate on its meaning. For now, just a few points to notice. The first is the origin of evolutionary religion versus revelatory religion (both personal and epochal): evolutionary religion is a REACTION to belief in a hypothetical ghost-spirit world. Revelatory religion is PROPOUNDED by the real spiritual world, in response to our mortal hunger…to depend upon the universal Deities. Whereas Evolutionary religion pictures the circuitous gropings of humanity in quest of truth; revelatory religion IS that very truth. Revelatory religion is a top-down, superintellectual gift of the real spiritual world; evolutionary religion is a bottom up, mortal mind response. Surely Jesus’ warning to the Apostles that the person who hears and believes superficially with mind alone and who has not experienced truth in the heart (morontial, soul consciousness) cannot be depended on, is a warning which we, even 2,000 years later, need to heed. Of course, we could rely on the presumption that the Spirit of Truth and the Thought Adjuster will automatically turn intellectual comprehension into soul-felt truth experience. But if the direct encounter with revealed truth embodied in the living presence of the Creator Son can be recognized only in the mind, what about revealed truth in the form of a book of words?
There is another issue as well to consider. To what degree do we contaminate revealed truth by the unsurprising tendency to understand new truth using old, comfortable, evolutionary methods; by projecting onto such truth existing human beliefs, even if updated into Urantia Book terminology to impersonate new understanding, especially when such revealed truth is rooted in the personal interpretation of others. Taking comfort in what we already know, such reliance speaks of the theological authority of the evolutionary religions instead of making use of the direct, personal experience and perception of revealed truth that is a hallmark of the planned revelations designed to fuel our growth. Just as lipstick on a pig doesn’t alter the underlying animal characteristics, if we employ evolutionary techniques and recognitions of authoritative education and religion to validate newly-revealed truth, that won’t really conceal the old evolutionary wineskins in which we chose to package the new wine—ostensibly to make it easier to share with others. But such a sea change in consciousness is not always so easy to accomplish: As we are told,
…it requires courage to invade new levels of experience and to attempt the exploration of unknown realms of intellectual living.” [Paper 101:7.2, page 1113.8]
Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) – An Encounter with Revealed Truth
The content of The Urantia Book differs from any other teaching whereas it is intellectual in the discovery of facts about our planet, morontial in the presentation of new concepts of Deity and the universal organization, and spiritual through a renewed presentation of truth throughout the book and in the religious life and teachings of Jesus. The author-revelators have assembled an impressive series of 196 papers (plus a detailed Foreword), logically organized from the transcendent to the immanent, presented as courses of which THEY are the teachers and perfectly adapted to our language and our understanding.
Contrary to the purely evolutionary nature of religious teachings resulting from the human groping to approach and know God, revelation is the fruit of the collaboration of beings from the highest spheres with the objective of expanding the cosmic consciousness and enhancing the spiritual perception of humanity so that every human being can enjoy spiritual freedom and live in full consciousness a better life of consecration to do the Father’s will, produce the fruits of the spirit, and experience the growth of divinity in the soul in a unique and personal way.
At the end of the day, if the system of spiritual education is not doing all of this, it fails.
“Since I encountered Urantia Book and follow UBIS, there is love growing in me, the love that springs from acceptance and acknowledgement that God is NOT what He WAS in my old paradigm. That Jesus is more my very close and intimate brother than God in that Cross; and though I am still learning – there is a subtle change in my motive to live and work. Because I could feel the sweetness of relationship between me and God, then I am hoping to bring that experience into realization in life of many people. The Kingdom of Heaven is here…that is the news I long to spread in real action, through my work and services.” A Student from Indonesia
UBIS Pedagogy and Methodology
In 1998, a collaboration between Dorothy Elder, a long-time reader and experienced teacher by profession, and Urantia Foundation Trustee Georges Michelson-DuPont to develop an internet school to facilitate the encounter with the revealed truths in The Urantia Book gave birth to UBIS (Urantia Book Internet School), a service of Urantia Foundation. The primary guiding principle undergirding the school’s pedagogy was informed wholly by the book’s revelation itself, from top to bottom without intermediary—the true teachers are the revelators, the Spirit of Truth, the Thought Adjuster. The UBIS TFs facilitate the encounter with new and living truth in order to stimulate the students’ self-discovery, experience, and perception of that truth. The design was simple. But to be effective it needed to resist the siren call of interpretive teaching so that the unique personalities of the school’s students might encounter, discover, and express new truth as taught by the truth revealers and rendered genuine by Michael’s Spirit of Truth and the Adjuster; then to mutually and lovingly share their perceptions with fellow students in their own unique and direct ways as they together weave a multi-dimensional understanding of encountered truth reflective of Supreme meanings and values. Teacher-Facilitators (TFs) trained in this pedagogical design and implement the courses offered by UBIS.
UBIS Course Discussion Comment:
“You know what? I appreciate the fact that in a UBIS course no one tells me what to believe but encourages me to reach conclusions for myself. Evolutionary religions seem to spend a lot of their educational energy teaching what they already believe is truth. Revelatory religion, we are told, IS the new truth we all seek. But it comes with a challenge: don’t settle for what you already know and believe about God or even what someone else claims is true. Keep reaching. Keep experiencing. Keep searching to know him better. He is infinite and eternal so that you don’t have to worry that you will run out of what is still unknown or un-experienced. It matters to me that even though the revealed truth provided in The Urantia Book is presented in words we must encounter intellectually, such revealed truth can come alive in our souls when given life by the Thought Adjuster, the Spirit of Truth, and our revelatory teachers who transform truth from an idea in words into a living experience of the God in whom we live. But we can’t just take that for granted, can we? We have to self-consciously will it. Don’t we?”
To support its self-discovery pedagogy, UBIS’ methodology derives its inspiration from Jesus’ masterful approach to stimulate in every child of his Father the direct, personal experience of revealed truth in the soul. Following Jesus’ lead, UBIS adheres to a question-response methodology meant to facilitate students’ personal discovery of truth before sharing that discovery with fellow students. During his bestowal on Urantia, the Master did not only tell his listeners the truths he wanted to reveal to them. Often, in addition to parables and especially during personal interactions, he asked questions designed to arouse in each soul the actual experience of such truth. Employing the Master’s example, UBIS TFs do not teach courses by interpreting revealed truth but instead design thoughtful questions to provoke in students the personal encounter with revealed truths which, once experienced in their souls, leads to enhanced spiritual perception. Because of the transformative effect of the top-down revelation of new truth and the intended growth process of revelation itself, the focus of UBIS is solely on The Urantia Book and does not include secondary (interpretive) works, or the evolutionary expressions of other seeker-authors musing about their views of truth or reality.
The UBIS academic year is comprised of three trimesters of 10 weeks each: January, April and September. The courses offered are based on the study of papers, for example the papers on “Thought Adjusters,” or on a general theme of the book, for example “power-personality synthesis.” Each course is an original creation, prepared by an experienced Teacher-Facilitator. It includes a reading assignment and a series of questions related to the subject of the course. One month before the registration period, early December, March, and August, the list of courses and a brief description of each are posted on the online pages related to the language of the course on Urantia Foundation’s website: urantia.org.
As explained above, a typical 10-week UBIS course, designed by each Teacher-Facilitator, is comprised of four, two-week periods. The first week combines deep study of a reading assignment with required responses to six questions which serve to focalize the reading material and provide personal reflections for the following discussion-sharing week. The questions probe the facts, meanings, and values of the assigned readings. Some are easily answered; others are more open-ended and ask for a deeper student grasp of new truth. Not unexpectedly, many students approach new truth through the lens of what they already know and believe. But encouragement is given to letting go of existing beliefs and probing new truth for new understanding. The initial week of the Course experience orients the students to the class purpose, enables the sharing of personal introductory statements and encourages the first interactions between the students. The final week of the Course is comprised of the posting of an essay based on topics provided by the Teacher-Facilitator, responding to the Student Evaluation Questionnaire to contribute to the refinement of the UBIS Learning Experience, and claiming the Course Completion Certificate. Access to the courses remains open for a week or two so that students have the opportunity to post final comments and observations and interact with the fellow students with whom they have journeyed through the experience of 10 weeks of revealed truth exploration. Students have found this to be a shared sonship experience—children of the Father encountering the revealed truths of that relationship while seeking together the Supremacy of divine perfection in the privilege of doing of his will.
UBIS School Details
The UBIS website can be reached at: http://ubis.urantia.org/moodle/
Courses are presented currently in four languages, English, Spanish, French and Portuguese with a Moodle platform adapted to each language. UBIS uses Moodle, an online, user-friendly, digital platform utilized by millions of university students worldwide, to present its courses.
Teacher-Facilitator (TF) Training and Support
Prospective Teacher-Facilitators who have completed at least three courses as students, and who have been recommended by several experienced TFs and/or board members, are invited to take a required 10-week online training program (TFTP) designed to equip them to design and implement their own courses. This training program not only addresses the elements TFs need to be successful, the training also serves to equip each TF with tools that can help them become more effective study group leaders in their home communities. The UBIS approach has been shown to be successful in evolving study groups from reading and socialization to in-depth truth exploration. In addition to training, each TF has the opportunity to have the course they have designed reviewed by a team of experienced TFs. Designated as the Course Review Committee (CRC) this small team helps the TF with course communications, question design, plans for the Discussion-Sharing implementation, and helps to insure adherence to the non-interpretive UBIS self-discovery process, etc. The CRC offers suggestions for consideration; however, the TF makes the final decisions with regard to his/her course. Additionally, each TF is entitled to Faculty Committee Curriculum Integration Support, and a Mentorship Program for new TFs. In this way, TFs are trained and supported by multiple layers of UBIS course support services and certified for their responsibilities by living experience with the UBIS pedagogy and methodology as informed by The Urantia Book revelation itself.
A Sampling of UBIS Courses
The Quest for Consciousness
Understanding Mind: Our Bridge to an Eternity of Adventure
Unity, Diversity and Reality
Three Days in the Life of our Master Teacher
The Inescapable Command
The Jesusonian Gospel Unfolding Through Epochal Revelations
True Religion-Nurturing Spiritual Growth
The Religion OF Jesus
The Ordination Sermon: Master Philosophy of Life
Power Personality Synthesis: Leading to Perfection of Life and Destiny
The Thought Adjuster: Our Passport to Eternity and Destiny
A Study of God: Our Source and Destiny
The Agondonter’s Quest: The Ascent from Individuality to Unity
Along with these creatively TF-designed courses, UBIS offers a Core Curriculum Plan (CCP) comprised of courses built around 4-5 consecutive papers so that over time a student who chooses these CCP Courses will have the opportunity to experience all or most of the 197 Papers (including the Foreword) in The Urantia Book.
Our UBIS Educational Promise: Personally-Discovered Truth
Revealed truth, personally discovered truth, is the supreme delight of the human soul; it is the joint creation of the material mind and the indwelling spirit. The eternal salvation of this truth-discerning and beauty-loving soul is assured by that hunger and thirst for goodness which leads this mortal to develop a singleness of purpose to do the Father’s will, to find God and to become like him. There is never conflict between true knowledge and truth. There may be conflict between knowledge and human beliefs, beliefs colored with prejudice, distorted by fear, and dominated by the dread of facing new facts of material discovery or spiritual progress. [Paper 132:3.4, page 1459.4]
Revelation is a gift from the real spiritual world offering a transformational sea change in our experiential perception of the reality of God. It is profoundly more than just an upgrade to existing evolutionary thinking. The attempt to normalize and establish The Urantia Book as a document of evolutionary philosophy sufficient to affirm its revelatory authority is a species of wishful thinking. The sectarian landscape includes fringe religious institutions originally claiming revelatory origin that have traded or modified such revelatory identities for the apparent status of authoritative, sectarian religion and evolutionary educational accessibility. Indeed, such evolutionary identification is an intellectual temptation which puts at risk our revelation and the universe plan of regular, revelatory bestowals designed to stimulate expanded cosmic consciousness and enhanced spiritual perception. LET’S NOT FALL FOR IT.
In such a context, UBIS has been designed to utilize a pedagogy and methodology informed by the fourth and fifth epochal revelations based on the belief that evolutionary techniques of education and religious authority are not suited to the experience and perception of revealed truth. It is worth considering that in a well-meaning effort intended in part to normalize the fourth revelation as an evolutionary refinement, Jesus’ followers turned the living religion OF Jesus into a religion ABOUT Jesus which gave rise to the disease of sectarianism we suffer from today. How much easier would it be to do that with a book? In contrast, our underlying UBIS commitment is to the facilitated self-discovery OF the revealed truths encountered and understood by each unique student personally and directly rather than presented as teacher-interpreted knowledge ABOUT the truths revealed in The Urantia Book. The true teachers of revealed truth are, after all, the revelators, the Spirit of Truth, and the Thought Adjuster. During its 20 years of existence, more than 30 trained and dedicated UBIS TFs have designed and presented over 200 courses in English plus another 40 courses total more recently in French, Spanish, and Portuguese to a growing base of 2,000 registered UBIS students worldwide.