A personal account of faith as a tool of mind cultivation
(Presentation made at the last Urantia Association International Conference in 2015)
A very good day to everyone! Let me first say that I’m happy to be here with you, to see my old friends, and to make new friends, hopefully.
It is quite challenging to attempt at presenting a well-structured talk to a community of Urantia Book readers. Frankly, I never volunteered to make this presentation, but I accepted this opportunity with gratitude. I will try to share with you some personal ideas, born out of reading and re-reading of the text of The Urantia Book.
Before I begin, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have made my participation in this conference possible through my scholarship.
My talk is titled, Cultivating Mind: Choosing The Right Tool, with the subtitle, A personal account of faith as a tool of mind cultivation.
I will talk about faith and mind, my faith and my mind—the mind which stubbornly tried to deny me of those truths that are so beautifully presented to us in The Urantia Book.
My hope is to be sincere.
My hope is to be able to share with you things precious to me, for, as we are told,
The God-knowing man describes his spiritual experiences… for the edification and mutual satisfaction of believers. [Paper 1:6.6, page 30:5]
In 1986 I had a dream. I was on a beach. The weather was beautiful, there was no wind, the sun shined gently. Out of the blue, a giant wave descended on the shore, taking me with it. I was powerless, flopping about and trying to instinctively catch hold of something. Strangely, there was no fear.
And then I felt something in my hand. Next moment I was washed on the shore, and there, in my hand, was a book.
Four years later I found The Urantia Book.
Looking back, I see this dream as a clear message, and a promise. And the most important part of this message is: fear not. In four years, these words, found so often in the book, became a magnificent and vibrant call and a promise to become a motto for the rest of my life.
So, was it my mind that I should be eternally grateful? Not exactly. At that time, as so often in the following years, my mind did all to stop me from pursuing the right cause. It offered flawlessly logical explanations of the divine magic presented in The Urantia Book; it explained the recklessness of moving away from my daily routine of making a living; it hugged every possibility to stick to the respectable, well-proven, widely-accepted theories and notions. It was doing the utmost to assure me that it, my mind, was my true friend, ready and willing to serve me with those indispensable tools of logic, skepticism, facts of life, and the five senses, whose data it would faithfully and readily communicate and interpret for me.
Still, something—or someone —never failed to offer different explanations, different counter-arguments to all those arguments my mind was presenting. And, what struck me always, was the tone of that someone: it was so gentle, the music of the messages was so wonderful, that all the logic, all the facts to the contrary were losing their significance.
So I kept reading, and I kept listening to that someone. And I started to learn to choose.
My first choice was to give it a chance. To read The Urantia Book, to allow it to bear fruit in my life. I never regretted that choice.
Since then, something new appeared in my mind. That something was hope. Before, I had longed for a hope, but there was never a real hope. On the contrary: my understanding of the world could lead only to abandoning all hope, not fostering it.
That new sensation was inspiring and wonderful. The stronger my hope grew, the weaker was the fear.
At a certain point, I stopped, took a breath, and tried to ponder all this. Why was the ever-present fear losing its grip? Why was I ready to trade all the logic in the world for the wonderful feeling of hope? Why was this growing faith of mine already so powerful?
I kept reading, and I kept finding the answers.
I also started paying attention to certain word combinations in The Urantia Book, and gradually I started to get deeper into their meaning.
Living truth, living love, and living faith. What does this word “living” actually mean? Enlarging the context, we find out that “living” means vibrant, resonant, appealing, inspiring, spontaneous, and—creative.
Being a composer, I found the idea of creativity to be the most appealing to me. For creativity is ultimately calling into being a new reality. And that is something that makes us, if not creators, then at least co-creators.
My next conclusion was just waiting for the right moment to materialize: creativity and faith go hand-in-hand.
And right after this perception came another one: I can learn to use my faith as a tool that will enable me to cultivate my mind and develop my creativity.
I was finally reassured after reading those wonderful words:
Faith is the inspiration of the spiritized creative imagination. [Paper 132:3.5, page.1459:5]
Our mind is inherently creative. Reading The Urantia Book I could single out four different cases as to the level of finite creativity:
The highest level is that of the wise-man. Whereas there’s no such thing as creating wholly out of one’s mind—except for probably the First Source and Center—for the sake of making a definition, let us assume that a wise-man—or should I say a wise-person?—is someone who creates, first and foremost, out of his or her own mind. We know that Jesus left no scriptures. He used living words, as opposed to dead letters. So he was, among other things, a wise-man.
Well, who listened to him? His pupils, and the multitudes of both friends and foes. Knowing well that Jesus did not want to leave anything in writing, that he had destroyed that little which had been put down by him in his early years, the disciples did not write after him, and for 40 years the Spoken Word lived as a spoken word. Still, the Gospels are written text. And so the first author inevitably became a scribe.
Scribe is not a swear-word. If it were not for scribes, there would be no proliferation of knowledge as we know it. Still, a scribe tends to capture the dynamic and living thought and crystallize it into something changeless.
Now, let’s get to those who use these scriptures, the end product of a scribe’s creative efforts. Again, for the sake of simplicity, we assume that the next mind type does nothing but use that which others have created. When this is the case, we deal with a type that can be called the sciolist.
Sciolists are those who pick up ideas and definitions without offering anything in return. All they know is acquisition of knowledge. They have the tools and know the means of acquiring data. They differ from scientists in the same way that a living flower differs from an artificial one: the image is alike, but the substance is completely different.
This is a widely-spread mind type. But in today’s world, it is being outgrown by still another type, which I would call the copy-paster.
Copy-pasters are those who only know how to copy and paste. Copy from one place, and paste into another. Copy a brilliant quote of one of our outstanding predecessors—and paste it into a compilation, devoid of any trace of freshness.
Copy-pasters are a face of the brave new world of intellectual and creative sterility. Instant access to data is seductive and spoiling. All too often it deprives of the keen pleasure derived from the process of searching for knowledge.
Surprisingly, all this has to do with the story of Jesus and his teachings. For this shows how, in shifting from a divine mind which is creativity itself, to a mind which exhibits predominantly mechanical qualities, we come to explaining how mechanical thoughtlessness contributed to rejecting Jesus by so many of his contemporaries.
Copying and pasting does not presuppose hi-tech or modern times. It is just a barren method of dealing with intellectual property, and, as such, it existed in every time period. What exactly makes a mind reject free creativity and stick to mechanical copying instead? One of the factors is, again, fear.
It was fear that made Pharisees and scribes shut their eyes on the living truth of the glad tidings and choose slavish repetition of old scriptures. It was fear that made them denounce the Son of Man and demand that the multitude remained just that—a multitude, and not a group of individuals, each possessed with a power to choose the Truth. But in order to be able to choose, one has to be able to think, and think co-creatively; whereas what the agents of the Sanhedrim imposed on the crowd was copying and pasting—they were offering ready solutions, demanding that these solutions be copied by the minds of those they approached and pasted onto each and every mind.
Let me say this again: My black-and-white definitions are offered for the sake of making a point. In reality, we shift from one ‘modus operandi’ to another, at least most of us do, and that’s pretty normal. I believe it’s the preference and the overall balance that make the difference. It’s ‘what I do when I’m at my best’ that matters.
From this perspective, what we do here, at the conference, is trying to sustain the living word, for most of the time we discuss, we communicate, we share, and we respond. All this is being creative and co-creative; this is drinking from the refreshing well of spontaneity; this is living the spirit and not just the letter.
I’ll continue with my personal story about faith and mind.
In the beginning it was a bumpy ride. I guess, it was about distance. When two people try to tell each other something, they come closer, so that they could hear better and wouldn’t have to shout. So what happened was this: My newly-born faith, my precious baby, was all happy and joyful; so happy and so joyful that for some time it did not notice my mind, which was left in the dark, all by itself. The mind could feel the presence of light, somewhere in the end of the tunnel, but the description of that light was too vague to make an impression. And, it was about the language, too: My faith hadn’t yet mastered the language of communication with the mind. It hadn’t found the right words yet. Its magical brush wasn’t there yet to paint and portray the wonders of the spiritual joy in full color. My wondering and anxious self was right in-between, torn by sudden dashes of faith on the one hand and down-to-earth reasoning of the mind on the other.
Yet, I had made up my mind that I would turn the faith into the tool. And so my mind began looking for instructions. And, they were forthcoming. A set of instructions was preceded by this title:
A spiritual tool called faith for cultivating one’s mind
Warning: before proceeding, read instructions carefully.
1. Purpose of the tool: to encourage religious living.
2. Operating environment: day-to-day life.
3. Safety precautions:
- Handle with care: Faith is both powerful and delicate. When abused, it can lead to “convulsions of fanaticism” [Paper 110:4.5, page 1207:5]
- Don’t expose the tool in a hostile environment: do not “cast pearls before swine” [Paper 140:3.18, page 1571:5]
- Preserve well: Although there is no ‘best before’ on the package, prolonged inactivity will result in the tool getting rusty. That means, use your faith.
But not a word on how to use it!
I didn’t know then that there couldn’t be any instructions to copy. I didn’t know that one always has to find a personal way of exercising faith.
What was even more important, I didn’t know exactly why I would be applying my faith, what goals I would set for myself, in other words—what I wanted to achieve through faith.
What do you really want?—I asked myself. I wanted a lot of things. But there was one thing I desired most of all: I wanted to get rid of fear.
It became my second rational, intellectual choice on the road to a better cultivated mind. So why did I choose fear as the key target?
If I had to single out just one negative quality impairing my whole life, that would be fear. It is so rightly said in The Urantia Book: “Fear is man’s chief enslaver.” [Paper 142:0.2, page 1596:2] We are told that fear has been inherited from the animal kingdom. A Life Carrier admires the horse, but bewails the fact that the horse is so easily frightened. Well, here is a message to us, humans: Whereas a frightened horse flees, man kills out of fear. Or gets killed. We are told that “fear can kill.” [Paper 88:4.8, page 971:2] We are further told, “…fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul.” [Paper 48:7.4, page 556:4] And it is quite obvious that this fraud is practiced through the agency of the mind.
What exactly does fear do to one’s mind and personality? A Divine Counselor warns us, that we distort our mind by “…useless anxiety.” [Paper 9:5.7, page 103:5] And anxiety is a by-product of fear. A Solitary Messenger states that fear pollutes the fountain of faith,“…the fountain of faith polluted by the poisons of fear.” [Paper 111:7.5, page 1224:0] Midwayers point at fear that “…prevents the honest souls… from accepting the new light of the gospel…” [Paper 159:4.9, page 1768:5] emphasis added
So what is fear? Fear is the antipode of love. Love and fear are mutually exclusive. These two substances do not mix. Where there is fear, there is no love. Where there is love, there is no fear. It is eternally true that “…love of God… casts out all fear.” [Paper 48:6.8, page 552:6] That is why the Adjuster “…would like to change… [our]… feelings of fear to convictions of love…” [Paper 108:5.8, page 1192:3]
But maybe, could fear be useful? It sure is. For the body. It warns, it prevents, it makes us cry for help. But the more we understand the Master’s words that “Man cannot live by bread alone.” [Paper 160:3.1, page 1777:2] the less we need fear. And, the more we need love. And the more faith becomes the bridge over troubled waters of our mind.
Once I started using the new tool, it showed some pretty unexpected—and wonderful—qualities.
It revealed a unique capacity to grow. It grows in space occupying more and more of it. It grows in time, pointing into the future on the one hand and finding its foundation in the things of the past on the other.
Like with so many other things, there was a turning point. A turning point in the fight between my faith and my fear.
It occurred during one of those routine debates. “What are you going to eat?”—cried my mind, powered by fear. “You are not being responsible! You have a family! You should stop writing your music that gives you next to nothing and start doing what everybody else does: Earn a living.” I tried to respond, but my answers were feeble.
Suddenly, my little girl entered the room. “Daddy, will you play me this song?”
” Which one?” I asked.
“The one you wrote for me yesterday.”
So, I did. And, I saw how happy she was. And I realized that all that was really important in my life was already there. And I understood I could do without fear.
Fear is a generic name. In fact, we deal with its many faces, its many forms: anxiety, mistrust, suspicion—to name just a few. And every time it is a sign of the absence of love. Fear is rational—love is irrational. Fear is incarcerating—love is liberating. Fear is stressing—love is relaxing. They are mutually exclusive. Like day and night. Like light and dark. You cannot mix them. You can only choose between them.
So, the problem of choice again. A choice between now and sometime later. A choice between material and spiritual. A choice between thinking and believing.
In the end of the day, it’s a choice between believing and not believing. For if you truly believe in God, there can be no fear. We only have fear to the direct proportion of not having faith. So fear not becomes another way of saying: Have faith. The problem of combating fear is the fundamental problem of allowing faith to take the upper hand in human affairs.
“Fear not” [Paper 100:7.15, page 1103:3] was the watchword of the Master, because when you fear, you can’t truly love. It was fear acting through its different materializations—jealousy, mistrust, suspicion, envy, and vengefulness—that ruined Judas. Fear for his life led Peter to a very dangerous state of denying his Master—wasn’t he close to following in the steps of Judas? Fear of material loss led Matadormus to rejecting the Master’s offer. Was this fear substantiated? No. The midwayers disclose to us that Matadormus would have got all his treasures right back had he only accepted his new role. Fear of troubles with the Jews led Pilate to giving into their outrageous demands.
Fear is blinding. Fear is disconnecting. Fear is treacherous. Fear is murderous.
Fear is the irrational outcome of a purely rational behavior.
Fear saves us today, only to doom us tomorrow.
Fear is another name of short-sightedness. It is a caution that has outgrown itself. It is a precaution left unattended. Fear offers a dime and robs the fortune. Fear saves from bruises and afflicts permanent injury.
Fear not! These words should become not only a watchword, but also a part of a daily prayer:
“O Lord, deliver me from the fetters of fear! Do not allow its poison to distort my mind! Substitute it with peace of the mind, everlasting calmness of the soul, and all-encompassing love.”
God is love. Absence of love is fear. So fear is absence of God. And so it is unreal, because there isn’t a place where God wouldn’t be. THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED AN INTELLECTUAL FRAUD. Fear is what’s unreal, but what tends to deny and substitute everything which is truly real.
You cannot kill love. But you can ban it from entering your mind.
You cannot stop God. But you can ban Him from cultivating your mind.
Faith is my hack and my sword. It’s the only tool and the only weapon I will ever need to help my mind win the ongoing battle with fear, which is disbelief.
As time goes by, I notice that the distance between the newly born faith and the mind, the distance which used to be a problem, is getting shorter, for the two are getting closer, and they are mastering a common language. I am beginning to see that “Faith [is] the supreme assertion of human thought,” [Paper 3:3.9, page 51:8] that “faith… is reasonable,” [Paper 103:7.1, page 1137:6] that “faith is a vision of the spiritualized mind.” [Paper 1:3.3, page 25:3]
I can be confident that I have chosen the right tool. Unlike other tools, intense use only makes it sharper. All I have to do is to keep it handy.
For me, it all started with a supposition that I can do without fear, that fear is a useless state of mind.
It continues with a trial period—a ban on fear.
One day it will become a habit of living without fear. And a habit is something the mind is quite happy with.
The mind making a choice to fear not.