The Word, the Language, the Dictionary

In the Spring of 2018, I read of the new library in the Urantia Foundation’s building, dedicated to containing the works of literature assumed to have been used by the revelators in the Urantia Papers’ formation. Over the years, I have wondered about the origins of the Urantia Papers and reviewed such websites as Matthew Block’s Square Circles in his efforts to match The Urantia Book to human sources. The new library at the Urantia Foundation preserving such works is an invaluable collection, especially for future generations.

Having studied The Urantia Book for years, I am still amazed at the quality of the English language used in the papers. The Urantia Book is a masterpiece of prose literature with its poetic cadence, with each author representing their thoughts through the written word. The style of the Urantia Papers is exclusive from any human author’s works I have read. Even the style of each author is unique. Each has its unique writing style, from a Divine Counselor to a Solitary Messenger, Mighty Messenger, or the Midwayer Commission.

One of my favorite passages, one of the most beautiful works of prose poetry I have ever read, is the opening section of Paper 102, The Foundations of Religious Faith. This excerpt, traced to Bertrand Russell’s A Free Man’s Worship, turns Russell’s pessimistic sentiment into a statement of resonating truth and beauty. I still remember reading this for the first time. How ironic such a profound passage in The Urantia Book was sourced from the most well-known atheist of the 20th century!

Nearly 30 years ago, in the summer of 1989, I introduced The Urantia Book to a friend with a vintage English dictionary. He took an interest in The Urantia Book, and with his dictionary, we decided to explore the meaning of Urantia. Since such a term is not defined, we searched through many similar expressions and determined Urantia as meaning “of or belonging to the Heavens.” Since then, I have remembered that definition. As I read The Urantia Book these days, I listen to the audio version, and while doing so, I refer to an online dictionary to clarify the meanings of certain words.

Realizing the importance of a dictionary from the same period as the Urantia Papers, and with the new library at the Foundation, I thought to donate a vintage dictionary. Reviewing various dictionaries, Webster’s New International Dictionary Second Edition was the ideal choice, first published in 1934, the same year the Urantia Papers were finalized. In looking at suitable stands for the dictionary, I could not find an ideal match on several retailer sites, and online auctions rarely sell these items. As such, I had one made by a craftsman in Oregon.

Before shipping the dictionary and stand to Chicago, I researched the word “Urantia” again to review its meaning. Glancing through the Internet, I discovered similar definitions for “Urantia” but felt I might refine it further. The word “Urantia” is broken into two separate parts of “Uran” and “tia.” I found it interesting that there are two similar words whose specific definitions are no longer used in the English language today, even removed from the current Webster’s dictionary. These words are “Urania” and “Uranian,” which are related to the root “Uran.” These definitions are found only in earlier 20th-century English dictionaries. The descriptions are as follows:

Urania – (Latin fr. Greek) “heavenly, heaven.” (Greek) Ourania, Ouranios – “heavenly” Ouranos – “heaven”

Uranian – “Of, pertaining to, or concerned with the heavens, or the science of astronomy; astronomical.”

Reviewing the definition for “tia,” which has Latin and Greek origins, is related to the suffix “cy,” which has the following meaning:

-cy (-tia [Latin, Greek]) “signifying state, quality, office, rank.”

I am not an etymologist, but looking at the context of the word Urantia it would have its origin as an adjective forming the actual use as a proper noun. As such, I postulate the meanings as follows.

u·ran’tia \yu̇·rān’ shə\, adj. 1a: [L., fr. Gr.] of or belonging to the Heavens;
b: having a heavenly status or quality

U·ran’tia \yu̇·rān’ shə\, n. (cosmology). 1a: a name designating the planet Earth;
b: the Earth within the Heavens

Alex Meyers

In its last definition, “the Earth within the Heavens” has the words “Earth” and “Heavens” in the proper case, designating their specific reference and location. Choosing the name “within” took some liberty of thought but anticipating what the revelators envisioned in formulating a meaning, Earth’s future would inevitably evolve into a status of Light and Life. As such, Urantia would embody a state of “heaven on earth” and be a member of the Heavens in the eternal future of the Grand and Master Universe.

Access to a vintage dictionary is invaluable for referencing language changes. Even now, 85 years after the completion of the Urantia Papers, the English language is altering the meanings of certain words. For example, the term “universe,” which still includes the definition of “a galaxy or group of galaxies” as relevant to the Urantia Papers, is now different from the standard description used today, which represents the millions of galaxies in their entirety, thanks in part to the advancements in astronomy.

Reviewing how languages change over time, I can think of three causes that alter their course. I am sure there are other influences as well.

Infusion – the colonization of countries that blend languages, as when France occupied England and incorporated French words into the English language

Isolation – the separation of societies that create unique words, definitions, and even different languages altogether, such as the Korean language

Transformation – the modernization of languages influenced by changes in culture, science, and standardizations, enhanced by such factors as social media

A unification of languages will inevitably occur with the future of language and our planet’s progress. Paper 55, section 3, regarding the Golden Age of Light and Life, states:

During this age of light and life, the world increasingly prospers under the Planetary Sovereign’s fatherly rule. By this time, the worlds are progressing under the momentum of one language, one religion, and, on normal spheres, one race.

Although the Sun now sets on the British Empire, its legacy of spreading the English language remains. The English language will most likely become the one language of Urantia while continuing to be influenced by other languages and cultures. In time, a standardization of the English language will render further unification and direction.

In the eras to come, avid students of The Urantia Book will reference the English language used during the creation of the Urantia Papers. Eventually, like the one now in the Foundation’s library, vintage dictionaries will be available online so that definitions of the English language from the 20th century will be accessible to everyone.

In conclusion, it is not just the notes in music but the changes between the notes that constitute the melody. In the revelation of the Urantia Papers, regardless of the language, it is not just the words but the insights they represent that transform their concepts into spiritual meanings and values.