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155:5-6 Discourses on True Religion (2011) go
16:7 Morals, Virtue and Personality (2011)
139- Apostles Study Part I (2010)
188:4-5 Lessons from the Cross (2011)

Ernest Fremont Tittle and
The Discourses on True Religion

A FEW MONTHS ago I began posting a series of new parallel charts for various Urantia papers on Square Circles, and I hope to have at least twenty on the site before the year 2010 is out. I’ve presented the charts as stand-alone "works in progress," without commentary, since I’m focused now on bringing out as many charts as possible to make up for several years of no releases. In my files are detailed commentaries for each paper, which I hope to share in print and/or at workshops, before long.

Since the current parallel chart involves only two sections of a paper, Saskia and I thought it would be nice to accompany it with this article, which gives an account of the source find, and other relevant materials.

On June 24 of this year, I discovered that Jesus’ discourses on true religion in Paper 155 - "The Discourse on True Religion" (155:5) and "The Second Discourse on Religion" (155:6) - were derived, in large part, from a fine book of sermons published in 1928, called The Religion of the Spirit: Studies in Faith and Life. I hit upon this book after a five-minute search for parallels on books.google.com, and was able to finish tracing the parallelisms a couple weeks later, after buying a used copy from an internet bookseller.

Through further googling I learned that the book’s author, Ernest Fremont Tittle (1885-1949), was pastor of the First Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois, and professor at the Garrett Biblical Institute, also in Evanston. A blurb from a later volume of his describes him as "frequently in demand as a college preacher throughout the east and middle west," and a book about him published in 1996 - Social Gospel Liberalism and the Ministry of Ernest Fremont Tittle, by Christopher Hodge Evans - indicates by its title the direction of his sympathies. (Glenn Beck fans, be advised - Tittle was a prototypical "social-justice Christian.")

If I had noticed The Religion of the Spirit in any library or used book store in the past thirty years, I certainly would have picked it up and leafed through it, hoping to find similarities with the Urantia Book, particularly with the two discourses. But thanks to books.google.com, which became fully functional in the spring of 2007, one is no longer restricted to such chance encounters. In the past three years I’ve found about as many UB sources as I’d found in the fifteen previous years, without straying from my computer. In fact, the month of June 2010 alone saw the discovery of three other Part IV sources.

The sharp increase of recently found books containing row after row of parallels with material in the Urantia Book has led me to sharpen my criteria for what constitutes a "source." I can no longer confidently identify a text as a source if it contains conceptual similarities with the Urantia Book without also clear and consecutive linguistic parallelisms.

Long before becoming more selective, I named Auguste Sabatier’s 1904 book, The Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit, a "human source" for part of 155:5. In my first list of supposed sources, published in 1992, I wrote:

The sections in the Urantia Book on the discourses on true religion, which distinguish the religions of authority from the religion of the spirit, are an amplification of Sabatier’s thesis. The Urantia Book’s listing of the "three manifestations of the religious urge" on p. 1728 corresponds to Sabatier’s "Three Degrees of Religious Evolution." Sabatier’s book was quite influential; both Rufus Jones and Walter Bundy, among others, refer to the religions of authority and the religion of the spirit, attributing the origin of the latter to Jesus, as does Sabatier.

Yesterday I reread Sabatier’s "Three Degrees of Religious Evolution," and find the parallels with 155:5 to be nothing more than vaguely suggestive. (You, the reader, may judge for yourself. Click here to read Sabatier.) It may be that the writer of 155:5 and 155:6 used Sabatier’s formulation as a springboard for his or her own threefold formulation. In any case, I’ve found no clear parallels in Tittle’s book or anywhere else for the UB’s rendition.

Nevertheless, the Sabatier link is not consigned to dubious obscurity. In the first paragraph of his opening sermon, "The Religion of the Spirit," Tittle credits his inspiration:

AUGUSTE SABATIER made the world his debtor when he published his great book, Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit. It has been a long time since I read it, and I am obliged to acknowledge that all I can distinctly recall of it is the title. But that alone is enough to call forth a hymn of praise if only one were able to compose it. The mere recognition of the fact that there are religions of authority and the religion of the spirit is one of those flashes of spiritual insight for which we can never be sufficiently grateful.

The parallels with 155:5 begin immediately after that paragraph. Tittle’s first sermon threads subtly through Jesus’ first discourse, and then the thread picks up more and more beads as the second discourse progresses. Towards the end of the latter, material from Tittle’s third, fifth, sixth and seventh sermons come successively into play.

The narrator of Paper 155 describes the first discourse - given in response to Thomas’s questioning as to "just what is wrong with the religion of our enemies at Jerusalem. What is the real difference between their religion and ours?" - as "one of the most remarkable addresses which his apostles ever listened to throughout all their years of association with him" (155:4.2). The second discourse is hardly less remarkable in its inspirational power. But by carefully studying the parallel chart - and ideally by also reading the five drawn-upon sermons in Tittle’s book, the first sermon of which can be read here (click on book above right) - you, the reader, will be able to see the equally remarkable way in which the sermons were incorporated into Jesus’ discourses, discourses which were, according to the writer of Paper 155, "summarized and restated in modern phraseology."

Naturally, the parallel chart is a work in progress. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.

* * *

Here are a few pointers which may help those of you who are new to the parallel charts, as well as a few questions for in-depth study:

(1) Skim through the whole chart first, to get a sense of the course of the parallels. See how far the source is used in consecutive page order. See how many chapters are used, whether some chapters are used more heavily than others, etc.

(2) Read the left column all the way through first, to get a sense of the source author’s (in this case Tittle’s) message and style of expression.

(3) Specific to this parallel chart: Notice how 155:5 is more complex than 155:6. It begins with the restated discourse (5.2-5.5) and adds two paragraphs of commentary (5:6-7) before resuming the discourse (5:8-5:11). It then directly quotes Jesus, who assesses the religious situation in Jerusalem in the light of the discourse teaching and then appeals to the apostles and disciples to courageously embrace the religion of the spirit, which they unanimously commit to doing (5:12-16). See where and how the Tittle parallels come in and leave off as discourse shifts to action.

(4) Observe that 155:6 consists exclusively of restated discourse, apart from the opening and closing paragraphs. Notice that, unlike in 155:5, Jesus addresses the apostles and disciples as "you" and frames his comments in the light of their new conviction. See how the Tittle parallels begin to cluster and concentrate. See, later in the section, where the culling from Tittle’s first sermon ends and other ones are used. Has the UB author succeeded in maintaining continuity while turning to Tittle’s later sermons?

(5) Reread the parallel chart, this time concentrating on how the UB author "tweaked" Tittle’s meaning, language and context. Notice, for instance, how Tittle's words and word clusters were retained while his 20th-century references were removed. What added resonance is given to Tittle’s statements after they’ve been transposed and adapted from the pages of his book to become the substance of discourses from Jesus himself?

(6) Then, if you feel like it, reflect on how your new knowledge of Tittle’s influence on the discourses affects your larger understanding of Part IV. What questions does it raise for you, if any?  up


The religion of the spirit
leaves you free to follow
truth whithersoever
it may take you.
—Ernest Fremont Tittle (1928)

Click on image below for PDF parallel chart

Click on image below for PDF chapter
"The Religion of the Spirit"