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How I Found the Urantia Book—BYRON BELITSOS (1974) 


MY JUNIOR YEAR at the University of Chicago (1973-’74) was an exciting but confusing period of questioning and discovery for me. The unrest of the ’60s was coming to an end—a bitter end, in my estimation—and a wave of new spiritual teachings and teachers was beginning to sweep through college campuses. Eastern literature in particular was flooding in. Self-styled gurus like Ram Dass were in vogue, as well as “genuine” Eastern gurus such as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Chinmoy, and Chogyam Trungpa. I was attracted to them all, and so were my friends, all of us being Humanities and English Lit types. Here was a striking solution, I felt, to the problems of a sick and violent society, a solution far superior to that offered by the left-wing politics I had espoused as an outspoken high school and campus radical.

For a few months that spring, my friends and I lived in a haze of spiritual books, drugs, jazz, and late-night rap sessions. We felt justified in mixing spiritual teachings with psychedelics; after all, hadn’t Ram Dass, a college professor at Harvard, found God, or Brahman, or atman—or whatever he called it—through the same experimenting?

From observing myself in these ecstatic states of consciousness, I came to the overriding conclusion that something grand—perhaps something infinite and ineffable—lived within my own mind. Despite a few incidents of getting hopelessly lost at rock concerts, this chemically induced gnosis was incontrovertible: God or spirit lived within, and the Eastern teachers were right.

But what about the transcendent God, the Jesus I had grown up with as a socially active Greek Orthodox Christian in Ohio? What about that garish icon on my mother’s dresser? Were those gorgeous liturgies—with the chanting, the robes, the choral singing, the clouds of incense—only for raising church dues? What was behind all the rich mysticism that was hinted at in the church rites? These questions fueled my search for the transcendent One, in every form I could find him.

By the end of the semester the number of friends who were still seeking with me had dwindled down to three. We read every esoteric book we could lay our hands on—on UFOs, out-of-body experiences, flying gurus, kundalini yoga, Vishnu and Krishna, shamans, altered states of consciousness—you name it, we read it.

Now the school year was over and I was spending an uneventful summer at home in Cincinnati, living in my parents’ basement and working as a waiter. One night I was up smoking joints and talking with my younger brother, feeling excited, confused, and happy all at once. He eventually fell asleep, but I stayed up listening to an all-night, anything-goes college radio station broadcasting from Miami, Ohio. At 2:45 a.m. a man with a very pleasant and confident voice called in to the station, saying, “Everybody out there should know about this amazing book I am studying, called the Urantia Book. It was handed to a bunch of people in Chicago, right out of a flying saucer! If you read one paragraph, it will make you high, with a profound buzz, for an entire day. You’ve just got to read it—it is totally wild and totally from God.”

I wrote down the name, fumbling excitedly for my pencil. The caller mentioned that he was a go-cart racer, and that he would be racing the next morning—a Sunday—in a large parking lot at a local college. The next day I found him there by asking around. I don’t remember his name, but he was about 30, handsome and dignified, and very kind to me. He seemed to be the leader of a go-cart group of about fifty people.

This gracious man then told me to go a bookstore in downtown Cincinnati where I would be sure to find the flying saucer revelation. I immediately headed over, and there it was, the big blue book, on a shelf at about eye level. I grabbed it, flung it open, and began reading in the section, “The Modern Problem,” on page 2075. Something in me knew I had found what I’d been looking for—it all just clicked in a huge intellectual and emotional catharsis. I was stunned for a few minutes, then began to skim excitedly. After an hour of reading, sitting oblivious on the floor in the bookstore aisle, I bought it, looking forward to finding my answers, never suspecting that after this my real problems in life would begin!

Today I thank God, the angels, and this unknown man in Cincinnati for giving me one of the greatest gifts any of us can ever receive.

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Listen to Byron on radio discussing the Urantia Book