In this article, I wish to share some reflections that have been long maturing, the result of which are experiences in the bosom of different study groups, including one I initiated 16 years ago.
In January 2001, arising from various personal ordeals, I found myself in great confusion. Turning to God, I prayed to be led to discover a deeper sense of the notion of love as well as a clearer path in life in the years to come. The response was not slow. In September of the same year, I found myself in a group of long-term readers of The Urantia Book. We were all in the presence of an educator who, very simply, spoke of mankind as a creature of God, carrying on an eternal project of progression and growth, to which one could join without delay and in an active way.
This instructor aroused in me a profound desire to do as he did: to consecrate my life to developing and affirming my relationship with God, to make him known around me, and to start a serious study of the fifth revelation.
I continued my spiritual education with this man by going to Dakar once or twice a year. There I participated in a study group set up in his care for several years, a fraternity beyond institutional religions, cultures, and races to savor the unity of the spirit. To this day, our fraternity has expanded, deepened and intensified. I have participated in both French- and English-speaking groups, from which I have learned.
In parallel, owing to my growing enthusiasm for these truths and the desire to share them, a group has naturally formed around me. A teacher by profession, working for many years with adults, it has fallen to me to animate this little assembly of seven people. Being regularly confronted by the human side, I have felt the necessity to undertake training over the last five years in relationship-communication in order to acquire and develop practical tools to bring myself and others to take responsibility for everything in our lives. Without this acceptance, nothing significant or new can emerge in anyone’s life, even with people desirous of doing the Father’s will.
For three years I have been accompanying people who are in quest of meaning and peace, without necessarily seeking God. A phrase in Laurent Gounelle’s last book, ‘and you will find the treasure which sleeps within you,’ has profoundly attracted my attention: “Spirituality without working on yourself is not worth anything; working on yourself without spirituality is the same.”
This notion has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the study group. I perceive it as the matrix of experiential growth.
The first point that I wish to tackle, arising from observations made during my practice, is that human beings are more and more in search of well-being synonymous with immediate peace, tranquility, and happiness without understanding that true happiness is an internal matter. Besides, humans have a tendency, when taking an interest in a study group, to imagine that it will open, and without delay, the door to that much anticipated state of quietude. The Urantia Book is clear on this subject, and invites us to be in it, just as much as to be with people who are seeking a group: there is a zone of conflict to be crossed, and it doesn’t mention for how long!
The second point that I want to address is the group as the ideal framework for the growth and verification of our own evolution. It is in effect the barometer of individual progression, the measure of the proximity of our Adjuster, as well as of our level of transformation. Here I make an analogy with a musician. To master an instrument, many hours of individual work are required. Every musician who wants to be a part of an orchestra is obliged to have this personal discipline so that it will function well. When all the musicians gather, they harmonize with each other, and the accuracy of the symphony will depend on the personal work of each and on their skill in working together. This supplementary effort is essential.
The group offers a potential space to work on oneself, to reduce the exaltation of the ego that lives in each of us, and the vaunting claims it makes. Participants are continually confronted with different facets of the self, originating from internal tensions, as well as from multiple external relationships in conflict. From then on, the group is no longer simply a place for studying the teachings of the book, nor solely for exchanges of interpretations of the concepts of the fifth revelation, but indeed a place of experiment and transformation. Consequently, a study group is also a working group.