Dealing With Conflict in A Spiritual Life

Mark Blackham

Conflicts are an inevitable part of life on inhabited worlds, especially those worlds in the earlier stages of social and spiritual evolution. And this is certainly the case at the present stage of development on Urantia.

Things have improved over the centuries and, no doubt, they will continue to improve over time. But not until the distant future, when our planet finally attains the utopian ages of light and life, will we be entirely free of discord. This is not to say that, at such a time, we will all be of the same mind. But the way we deal with our differences will change significantly. Until we reach that utopia, and apart from national wars, we will experience two personal spheres of conflict—one is the conflict that takes place in the inner life (mind and soul), and the other is the conflict that occurs in the outer life (family and social).

Inner Conflict

Jesus said there are two realms of human life; one is a life in the flesh, and the other is a life in the spirit. Indeed, on his return from Rome, he told Ganid that there are two great classes of mortals—those who know God and those who do not (133:0.3).

He went on to say that people who live completely in the flesh or completely in the spirit, experience little inner conflict, but for all others who struggle to make the transition from one life to the next, there will be a considerable degree of conflict and confusion along the way. And Jesus, rather than telling his disciples to ignore this struggle or to cover it up with false optimism, instead instructed them to be right up front about it.

Forewarn all believers regarding the fringe of conflict which must be traversed by all who pass from the life as it is lived in the flesh to the higher life as it is lived in the spirit. 159:3.7 (1766.3)

When I first read this section of The Urantia Book, I couldn’t help but think it was already difficult enough to spread Jesus’ essential and elementary message—that our spiritual life begins by accepting that we are children of a loving, personal God. But now I’m instructed to tell all prospective believers that their ongoing attempts to attain this spiritual life will entail struggle and conflict. It seems like a hard sell.

Jesus said even more on this subject:

While you will experience great joy in the service of my Father, you should also be prepared for trouble, for I warn you that it will be only through much tribulation that many will enter the kingdom. 137:6.5

The religion of the spirit means effort, struggle, conflict, faith, determination, love, loyalty, and progress. 155:5.11 (1729.6)

If you dare to believe in me and wholeheartedly proceed to follow after me, you shall most certainly, by so doing, enter upon the sure pathway to trouble. 159:3.13 (1767.1)

Our Master makes it clear that we can expect much trouble, tribulation, struggle, and conflict in our ongoing efforts to prosper in the spirit. But that’s not all. We are expected to accept our struggles gladly and to happily perform our obligations to God, family, and society.

The notion that a spiritual life is full of adversity and obligation appears to be a far cry from fashionable views—that somehow a spiritual journey is akin to  “a fantastic and mystic experience of indescribable feelings of ecstasy” (101:1.1) or that it’s a mental state of utopian bliss.

Religion is not a technique for attaining a static and blissful peace of mind; it is an impulse for organizing the soul for dynamic service. 100:3.1 (1096.6)

Jesus dispelled other cherished notions about religion. In the Roman Empire of those days, and even today, it was not uncommon for people with faith to believe they were entitled to divine providence or special treatment, or that perhaps, by God’s hand, they would be spared the troubles of others.

Teach all believers that those who enter the kingdom are not thereby rendered immune to the accidents of time or to the ordinary catastrophes of nature. 159:3.13 (1767.1)

So why does Jesus tell us it’s going to be a tough experience? I doubt he’s trying to discourage us. It’s more likely he’s attempting to disillusion us, just as he did with the apostles on many occasions. However, despite his many cautions and reprimands, it’s a great relief that he always gives us an out—he gives us a spiritual reason to stay the course.

Indeed, just after he forewarned all believers about inevitable conflict, he mentions that the “The gospel yoke is easy and the burden of truth is light.” In another paper, a midwayer tells us that “The Master’s yoke is, indeed, easy…” (141:3.7). And in other places Jesus repeats this comforting truth.

Take upon you the divine yoke, and you will experience the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” 144:8.8 (1627.5)

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am true and loyal, and you shall find spiritual rest for your souls. 163:6.7 (1808.1)

The Master’s yoke is discovering and living the will of God by means of the truth he speaks and the example he lives. To overcome our difficulties and troubles, we are required only to believe him, to trust him, and to follow him, which is not a heavy burden at all. We are also consoled and heartened when he tells us that, once we believe this gospel, we will be unafraid when trouble strikes, and that he will be there with us through all these tribulations—if we would only believe.

There is but one struggle for those who enter the kingdom, and that is to fight the good fight of faith. The believer has only one battle, and that is against doubt—unbelief. 159:3.8 (1766.4)

I do not promise to deliver you from the waters of adversity, but I do promise to go with you through all of them.  159:3.12 (1766.8)

The Benefits of Conflict

There are good reasons for understanding the benefit of inner conflict in a spiritual life. For instance, we discover that, in all our moral dilemmas, simply asking God for help is one path to God-consciousness.

Every human being very early experiences something of a conflict between his self-seeking and his altruistic impulses, and many times the first experience of God-consciousness may be attained as the result of seeking for superhuman help in the task of resolving such moral conflicts. 103:2.4 (1131.3) emphasis added

Throughout our spiritual lives, we cannot avoid growing pains. Our minds and souls do not easily give up the comforts and familiarities of a material and secular existence. But growing in the spirit requires that we leave these comfortable shores for unknown and unexplored lands, a situation that can lead to anxieties and stress.

Religious perplexities are inevitable; there can be no growth without psychic conflict and spiritual agitation. 100:4.2 (1097.6)

Even Jesus experienced these conflicts in his youth:

He [Jesus] was distraught by the conflict between the urge to be loyal to his own convictions and the conscientious admonition of dutiful submission to his parents… 124.4.9 (1372.6)

Another benefit of inner, or moral, conflicts is that they often give rise to spiritual insights, bringing us closer to God and allowing us to reach a better understanding of ourselves and others. Such conflicts induce us to change our way of thinking—to look for a better way of living—to devote our lives to the way of God and, by doing so, to open our minds to even greater spiritual truths.

New religious insights arise out of conflicts which initiate the choosing of new and better reaction habits in the place of older and inferior reaction patterns. New meanings only emerge amid conflict; and conflict persists only in the face of refusal to espouse the higher values connoted in superior meanings. 100:4.1 (1097.5) emphasis added

Another episode in Jesus’ life that was truly inspiring in this regard, was his talk with Fortune, “the young man who was afraid.” He comforts the distraught young man by telling him to free his inner spirit from the fetters of fear so that it can “stimulate and inspire your mind.” He encourages the youth to enable his spiritual nature with “the power-presence of living faith,” an act that leads to the consciousness that “you are a child of God.” And when you are thus born again:

Trouble will invigorate you; disappointment will spur you on; difficulties will challenge you; and obstacles will stimulate you. 130:6.4 (1438.1)

Conflict and trouble are necessary conditions for spiritual growth but, with some incongruity, our ultimate spiritual objective is to overcome all conflict in our inner lives.

All conflict is evil in that it inhibits the creative function of the inner life—it is a species of civil war in the personality. 111:4.11 (1220.10)

As Jesus says, the way to overcome our conflict and thereby reach inner peace, is to accept and believe his words—his gospel. And with the power of our steadfast faith, to follow the spirit within—to live the way of God no matter what trials and tribulations await—even unto death.

But if we cannot fully attain this peace of mind on earth, we are assured that we will have the opportunity to achieve it when we reach the second mansion world.

Mansonia number two more specifically provides for the removal of all phases of intellectual conflict and for the cure of all varieties of mental disharmony. 47:4.8 (535.4)

Social Conflict

No matter how much we personally advance in the spirit and resolve our inner conflicts, we can never entirely avoid social conflicts. Even Jesus, as a perfect man, could not avoid all social misunderstandings, regardless that the onus of these misunderstandings inevitably fell on others.

Jesus advised us to be tactful and tolerant with everyone, to be alert and expert in our “worthy efforts to avoid all unnecessary social misunderstandings.”

Such wise souls are able to avoid much of the trouble which is certain to be the portion of all who suffer from lack of emotional adjustment, those who refuse to grow up, and those who refuse to grow old gracefully. 156:5.18 (1740.5)

We are all different in so many ways, which inevitably leads to differences of opinion and, therefore, the need to be tolerant. And tolerance comes more easily once we understand the truth of our relationships with one another. As Jesus told James:

“You do not have to see alike or feel alike or even think alike in order spiritually to be alike. Spiritual unity is derived from the consciousness that each of you is indwelt, and increasingly dominated, by the spirit gift of the heavenly Father.(141:5.1).

Spiritual unity is achieved by our individual recognition of the divine spirit living within all of us, followed by our respect for the spirit presence in others. Unfortunately, at the present stage of social development on Urantia, spiritual unity in the service of God seems a long way off. In the meantime, we can only do our best to live the spirit way while having great faith in “the exceedingly great and precious promises of God.”

And regardless of the doings of others, it remains our objective and our duty to learn to live harmoniously with all kinds of people. This skill begins on earth and continues through the mansion worlds, even to the constellations and beyond.

One of the most important lessons to be learned during your mortal career is teamwork. 28:5.14 (312.1)

Learning teamwork is a long-term objective. The Urantia Book makes it clear that, even after we have graduated from Jerusem and achieved Adjuster fusion, we have yet to fully overcome our social irritabilities and resentments. Overcoming these irritabilities is one of our main objectives on the constellation worlds, a goal attained through our experience of living with the univitatia and others. Ultimately, it teaches us to “live happily and work effectively” with many different types of beings (43:8).

World Conflict

There can be little doubt that world conflict and wars will continue for some time. It is revealed to us that there can be no true peace on Urantia until such time as we establish world government. That too, seems a long way off.

World peace cannot be maintained by treaties, diplomacy, foreign policies, alliances, balances of power, or any other type of makeshift juggling with the sovereignties of nationalism. World law must come into being and must be enforced by world government—the sovereignty of all mankind. 134:6.9 (1491.3)

How long will this ongoing state of world conflict persist? The only clue we are given is from this quote:

Mechanical inventions and the dissemination of knowledge are modifying civilization; certain economic adjustments and social changes are imperative if cultural disaster is to be avoided. This new and oncoming social order will not settle down complacently for a millennium. 99:1.1 (1086.4) emphasis added

Although this statement was made almost 100 years ago, it seems much more relevant today. The rapid pace of invention and the worldwide spread of knowledge (some of it questionable) have irreversibly altered the operation of society. Indeed, it appears to be a time for necessary “economic adjustments and social changes.”

It is also made clear in Paper 195 that the root cause of much of the grief on our planet is due to the secularization of thought and the adoption of materialist philosophies.

The complete secularization of science, education, industry, and society can lead only to disaster. During the first third of the twentieth century Urantians killed more human beings than were killed during the whole of the Christian dispensation up to that time. And this is only the beginning of the dire harvest of materialism and secularism; still more terrible destruction is yet to come. 195:8.13 (2082.5)

Keep in mind, this statement was made after the First World War but before the Second. Whether or not this “terrible destruction” will continue in the 21st century remains to be seen. But of one thing we can be sure:

Without God, neither freedom and liberty, nor property and wealth will lead to peace. 195:8:12 (2082.4)

Despite all the doom and gloom, there can be little doubt the world has never been better off. And this is true no matter which economic or social category we wish to measure (see Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, 2018). Rosling attributes much of world grief to the short attention span of the individual as well as the inherent “negativity instinct” of mankind, a foreboding mental state that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He says it is important to appreciate the achievements of world civilization while also recognizing that things can be much better yet.

Without world peace, you can forget about all other global progress. – Hans Rosling

Things will get better, but just as conflict is conducive to spiritual growth at the individual level, it can also pertain to the spiritual progress of world civilization.

… Jesus referred one phase of the kingdom to the future and did, on numerous occasions, intimate that such an event might appear as a part of a world crisis… 170:4.15 (1863.13) emphasis added

Despite all this turmoil, and despite the perpetual end-of-the-world scenarios and dark dystopias that appear to get much currency in the media, we are told time and again to have faith in the words of Jesus.

Be not discouraged; human evolution is still in progress, and the revelation of God to the world, in and through Jesus, shall not fail. 196:3.33 (2097.1)

Universe Conflict

Conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings between different individuals do not end on the mansion worlds, nor are they limited to mortal ascenders. No doubt, the troubles occurring in universe affairs are of a nature unknown to us, but even the master seraphim involved in the planetary government of Urantia (114:6.17) have had their disagreements—and they’ve been to Paradise and back!

And this fact alone speaks highly to the notion that there is nothing wrong about voicing our disagreements. The significant difference is how we deal with them. As the renowned American basketball coach, John Wooden once said, “We can agree to disagree, but we don’t need to be disagreeable.”

The disagreements and troubles in the administration of a universe are “very unlike the petty trials and travails of material existence” and instead appear to be more related to misunderstandings.

The moment the Creators bring into existence evolving individuals with the power of choice, that moment a departure is made from the smooth working of divine perfection; misunderstandings are certain to arise, and provision for the fair adjustment of these honest differences of viewpoint must be made. 25:3.7 (277.4)

The Universal Conciliators serve as the traveling courts of the worlds, functioning from the individual planets to the superuniverse headquarters (25:3). Their job is to adjudicate the minor difficulties and misunderstandings of the realms. Some of these difficulties relate to proper procedure, while others result from differences of opinion or different viewpoints.

But in the sector governments and on higher spiritual levels, there are fewer misunderstandings to adjudicate, and their work takes on a different nature. Nonetheless, to get some idea of the number of misunderstandings arising in a superuniverse, consider that there are almost eighteen trillion Conciliator commissions in Orvonton alone.

The courts and tribunals of the universes also adjudicate misunderstandings, poor judgment, or minor errors, although real conflict still occurs. On Urantia, the most familiar celestial conflict would be the Lucifer rebellion, but there have been others in the local universe of Nebadon and probably quite a few in the entire seven superuniverses.

This war in heaven was very terrible and very real. While displaying none of the barbarities so characteristic of physical warfare on the immature worlds, this conflict was far more deadly; material life is in jeopardy in material combat, but the war in heaven was fought in terms of life eternal. 53:5.7 (606.3)

Conflicts such as these appear to be confined to the local system level, and specifically to the order of Landonadek Sons. While some Melchizedek Sons have had lapses of judgment and the Vorondadek Sons of the constellations have erred occasionally, they have never fallen to rebellion, nor have they ever been found in contempt of the universe government.

Nevertheless, there appears to be a considerable amount of discord throughout these lower levels of superuniverse administration. And there is no better proof of this than the existence of the Mighty Messengers.

Mighty Messengers… are a class of perfected mortals who have been rebellion tested or otherwise equally proved as to their personal loyalty; all have passed through some definite test of universe allegiance. At some time in their Paradise ascent they stood firm and loyal in the face of the disloyalty of their superiors…. 22:2.1 (245.1) emphasis added

Likewise, is any ascendant creature who effectively prevents such upheavals of error, evil, or sin; for action designed to prevent rebellion or to effect higher types of loyalty in a universe crisis is regarded as of even greater value than loyalty in the face of actual rebellion. 22:2.3 (245.3) emphasis added

Nothing attests more to the extent of conflict and contention in the grand universe than the sheer number of Mighty Messengers. But once again, it’s likely that most of these conflicts occur at the local system or constellation levels of experience.

Almost one trillion Mighty Messengers are commissioned on Uversa, and there is every reason to believe that the number serving in each of the seven superuniverses is exactly the same. 22:2.5 (245.5)

All in all, we should not entertain any illusions about the state of the universe or what things will be like when we reach the first heaven—mansion world number one. One of the objectives of The Urantia Book is to expand our cosmic consciousness, and this task is achieved by telling us many truths about the state of the universe, including some of the troubles and conflicts therein.

While it’s good to be informed of these things and, therefore, prepared for what is to come, none of it necessarily interferes with our personal journey. No matter what conflict or trouble is going on around us, we will always make progress in this magnificent and majestic universe by remaining faithful, loyal, and devoted to a true, good, and beautiful God.

Truly, eye has not seen such glories as await your arrival on these worlds of the mortal-ascension adventure. 43:6.8 (493.1)