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How I Found the Urantia Book—LARRY GEIS (1970)

High August heat blankets the Southwest desert. The year is 1970. I’m 28 years old and probably the only white, ex-Southern Baptist, agnostic, gay CPA on this planet who’s been somewhat psychedelicized. If there are others like me, they’re probably in San Francisco, so that’s where I’m headed. A two-week visit the year before has inveigled me into quitting my lucrative job at Arthur Andersen in New Orleans, leaving my French Quarter friends and my spacious Victorian flat.

Three of us guys are on the road in a VW bug with an ice chest and a portable 8-track blaring “It’s A Beautiful Day,” Crosby, Stills & Nash and, of course, the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Trading off driving and sleeping, we make Albuquerque, where we crash with some friends. Our goal for the next day is the Grand Canyon, which none of us has ever seen. We opt for a detour to the North Rim, hoping to find some tourist-free solitude.

Arriving about 6 p.m. we find a few vehicles in the parking lot at Point Imperial (elevation 8,803 ft.). A prominent sign says “Danger: Beware of Violent Summer Thunderstorms!” As carefully planned, we ingest some slow-acting, mind-altering substances and prepare to groove on the sunset, spend the night under the stars communing with our inner beings and “come down” just in time to welcome the sunrise.

From where we park it’s still a good quarter mile to the rim itself. A nature trail winds through some scrubby, weather-tortured growth that bears witness to fire damage, probably from lightning strikes. We are above the timber line and a few wild rose bushes are in bloom, but mostly there’s just lots of barren rock.

Is anyone ever prepared for that first glimpse of the vast majesty of this most awesome natural wonder? Like a big cat, I find a place to perch on a small ledge on the very rim and just stare into the nearly limitless space. Vertigo is not in my vocabulary. 

Wow! I notice a small plane flying a few thousand feet below me. Then I see a large thunderstorm forming in the distance, as the baking heat from the canyon floor 6,000 feet below rises into the crisp air. It’s mind-boggling: the storm is actually inside the canyon, lazily moving in front of me. Now, both my inner and outer perspectives are expanding rapidly, rushing me into a state of blissful, timeless awe.

Suddenly the wind gusts, and a few raindrops begin to fly. The storm, still discretely discernible, seems to be drifting from right to left. I hear the familiar sound of thunder and the strange echo of that sound off the canyon walls—just too fascinating. My friends appear and suggest we head back to the car. “You guys go on,” I say. “I don’t mind getting a little wet.” They leave me to my reverie.

Then—crack!—a lightning bolt strikes very near me. Despite my disassociated mental state, I have the good sense to realize I can’t stand up, and run to the safety of the VW. I would be the tallest thing on that rocky plateau, a perfect lightning rod. (My first twenty-one years on Urantia were spent in Northern Oklahoma’s tornado alley.) Climbing down from my little ledge, I assume a fetal position with my face to the ground and turn my back to the storm, just as the psychoactive potentials of those tiny micrograms begin peaking.

Obviously, I have misjudged the path of the storm; it is rapidly growing outward as well as drifting. That roaring maelstrom literally slams into the side of that Biggest Hole on Earth. Clinging to the scrabbly gravel, I struggle to hang on, barely able to breathe. The storm rages on, pinning me to that precipice.

“. . . fear can kill” (p. 971).

The scene shifts inside: This is beyond fear, this is beyond desperation, this is beyond panic. This is final. I feel like a hosed-down fly on a wall, certain to be washed off into the abyss. “OK, God, so this is The End. There’s no way out. I give up, I give in, I surrender. Let’s get out of here.”

If you have read accounts of near-death experiences, or have had one yourself, you know that mere words are insufficient. Here I meet the hellfire-and-damnation God of my religious upbringing. Jealous Jehovah of the volcano. Thor of the thunderbolts. An archetype made painfully real. But wait!—there is something more behind the Wizard’s curtain, a vastness of Light and Love.

There are certain images I remember. For a brief moment, I am hanging on the cross with the Master, feeling the inexpressible sorrow (not pain) of benighted rejection. A voice inside me says: “Your life can mean as much. You must go back. There is work to do.” You can’t mean me. I’m just a nobody."

Who was Jesus, anyway? What about Buddha? The voice says: “Buddha was the most egoless man who ever lived; Jesus was the most perfect ego.”

How long all this takes, I do not know. But, still trapped in the roaring rain, trying to keep my mind from completely disassociating, I call out for help. A new calm comes over me. Now, I wonder about my friends: Have they made it to the car? Are they all right? As suddenly as it began, the storm abates. Then, I know it is safe to run back to the VW. How sweet the wild roses smell in the electrified air!

Leaving every stitch of my rain-soaked clothing in a pile outside, I wrap myself in a most welcome blanket and begin to calm down. There is little we can say to each other and my friends eventually go to sleep. I spend the night listening to the thousands of rivulets flowing into the canyon and (I now know in retrospect) my angels whispering in my ear. Alone, at dawn, I behold the sunrise from the very spot of my trauma.

Three days later, while staying with a friend in Southern California before hitchhiking to San Francisco, I meet another guy who is interested in spiritual realities. We discuss some books we have read: The Doors of Perception, The Varieties of Religious Experience, the novels of Hermann Hesse. “I just passed through Big Sur on my way back here to L.A.,” he says. “I stayed with the cook at Nepenthe. His name is Peter Rabbit—really! He showed me this very intriguing, big blue book. I think you might be interested in it.”

The next day, my host takes us over to meet someone he knows in the San Fernando Valley who is “into that kind of stuff.” His friend isn’t home, but his roommate lets us in.

Sitting on the coffee table is the Urantia Book. Peter Rabbit’s friend says, “Oh, there’s that book I was telling you about.”
By October of 1970, I was settled in San Francisco’s North Beach, rooming with a Tarot card reader, devouring that big blue book as fast as I could. Presumably by chance, I met some more new readers of this revelation. We formed a study group that has met weekly at some place or other to this day.

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