The authors of the Urantia Book acknowledge the importance of
using human sources wherever possible in presenting new revelation. On
pages 16 and 17 of the Foreword they tell us:
We may resort to pure revelation only when the concept of
presentation has had no adequate previous expression by the
Successive planetary revelations of divine truth invariably
embrace the highest existing concepts of spiritual values as a
part of the new and enhanced coordination of planetary
knowledge. Accordingly, in making these presentations about God
and his universe associates, we have selected as the basis of
these papers more than one thousand human concepts representing
the highest and most advanced planetary knowledge of spiritual
values and universe meanings. Wherein these human concepts,
assembled from the God-knowing mortals of the past and the
present, are inadequate to portray the truth as we are directed
to reveal it, we will unhesitatingly supplement them, for this
purpose drawing upon our own superior knowledge of the reality
and divinity of the Paradise Deities and their transcendent
The director of the
commission authorized to present the life and teachings of Jesus, which
is recorded in the last section of the Urantia Book, informs us:
carrying out my commission to restate the teachings and retell the
doings of Jesus of Nazareth, I have drawn freely upon all sources of
record and planetary information . . . As far as possible I have derived
my information from purely human sources. Only when such sources failed,
have I resorted to those records which are superhuman . . . The
memoranda which I have collected . . . embrace thought gems and superior
concepts of Jesus’s teachings assembled from more than two thousand
human beings . . . in many ways I have served more as a collector and
editor than as an original narrator. (p. 1343)
Many students of the
Urantia Book have been intrigued by these references to human
sources and have sought to track these sources down. Until
recently, however, the findings were meager, consisting mainly
of passages from the world’s sacred scriptures. A few modern
books had been identified as sources (e.g. The Religion of
Jesus by Walter E. Bundy, A Preface to Christian
Faith in a New Age by Rufus M. Jones and The Dawn
of Conscience by James Henry Breasted), but not enough
to prove that books had figured largely among the sources of
record and planetary information alluded to by the revelators.
Most readers have supposed that the revelators accessed some
sort of celestial concept registry or memory bank to locate
appropriate human concepts and expressions, only drawing on
published sources in exceptional cases.
a couple of groups of Urantia Book readers decided,
independently of each other, to collect all the human sources
found so far. As a member of one of these groups, I took on the
task of reading the above mentioned books carefully in order to
glean all the parallel passages. As I read, I began to see that
the parallels were far more extensive than previously realized.
This led me to surmise that the revelators’ use of books was not
so extraordinary after all.
A few months later, while doing
research for a paper on the Urantia Book’s treatment of race and
eugenics, I happened upon E. V. Cowdry’s Human Biology and
Racial Welfare. Published in 1930, this book turned out
to be another unmistakable source. This discovery, which
occurred in the spring of 1992, spurred me on to conduct a
concentrated search for other source books.
Below is a list of nineteen books which comprise the
sources I have collected so far. All of these books, with a few
exceptions noted in the list, contain sentences, paragraphs, or
even whole chapters whose phrasings and organization of thoughts
or information are so closely paralleled in the Urantia Book as
to strongly suggest their use as source materials by the
revelators. Most were discovered in libraries and used book
stores in the Chicago area during the spring, summer, and fall
of 1992, in the course of my research.
The research, so far, has been
very fruitful mainly because none of these books were obscure.
They were all written by authorities in their respective fields,
often by professors from prominent American universities, and
many were reviewed in the popular and academic press. The book
titles themselves were often giveaways; by their very titles,
for instance, I targeted Purposive Evolution and
The Architecture of the Universe (listed below) as
likely primary sources. It is quite probable that many more
books by American scholars of the early 20th century will be
identified as sources. It may also be that writings from other
periods and milieus will prove to be similarly rich in source
These books cover many fields,
including religion, philosophy, archaeology, physics, astronomy,
and history. The revelators explicitly acknowledge using the
highest human concepts and insights pertaining to God and the
seven superuniverses (p. 17) and to the life and teachings of
Jesus (p. 1343). But it seems strictly in keeping with their
purposes to cull from other areas as well, since mention is made
on p. 1123 that: “Revelation unifies history, coordinates
geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, and
psychology.” In their effort to produce a “new and enhanced
coordination of planetary knowledge” (p. 17), involving the
unification and integration of religion, science, and
philosophy, it makes sense that the revelators would incorporate
human understandings in all of these areas.
So far I have traced parallels in
about fifty of the Urantia Papers. One book alone, Origin
and Evolution of Religion by Yale professor E. Washburn
Hopkins, figures in twelve. I estimate that writings published
before 1936 are used in about one-third of Parts I and II and in
at least two-thirds of Parts III and IV. Most of these works
will probably be found within the next few years. Eventually we
will be able to map out the whole Urantia Book according to
which parts are original with the book and which are not. And,
again, this will not be too difficult since the revelators,
while studiously avoiding word-for-word borrowings, made no
attempt to disguise their sources by departing widely from the
original human expressions.
Clearly, these findings are of
great importance to serious Urantia Book readers. In addition to
providing further substantiation of the revelators’
acknowledgments, they spark new insights into what this
revelation really is, and how human and superhuman voices and
viewpoints interface in its production. As we gain a better
grasp of how original it is (in its function as pure
revelation), and how derivative it is (in its function of
presenting superhuman restatements of human concepts and
expressions), we will be better able to see how the revelation
positions itself with regard to evolutionary human knowledge,
wisdom, and faith.
My own experience has taught me
that, as a result of my former ignorance and underestimation of
early 20th century thought, my sense of this positioning had
been skewed. If unfamiliar with a concept or a piece of
information presented in the papers —especially if it struck me
as uncommonly beautiful, brilliant, or incisive—I would usually
assume it was original with the Urantia Book, little realizing
that it might have been known or expressed in some form or
other, by some people of earlier generations. But in becoming
more familiar with thought trends of that period and others, and
with the discovery of more human sources, I’ve come to a better
appreciation of the higher reaches of human thought reflected in
the book, and can now begin to give the book’s human side its
Along with this heightened
recognition of the book’s human component has come an awareness
of how brilliantly the revelators reworked these sources to
serve their own purposes. In comparing the source materials with
the corresponding passages in the Urantia Book, I am continually
struck by the presenters’ ingenious ability to seamlessly
integrate human observations with revelatory supplementation or
correction. Time and again they prove themselves deft and
creative editors, performing the difficult task of remaining
true to the original expression while at the same time slightly
altering it to make the reworded sentence(s) more congruent with
One illustration of this
technique will suffice for the purposes of the present essay. In
his discussion of chemical elements, W. F. G. Swann writes on
page 64 of The Architecture of the Universe:
Starting from any one of them [i.e., chemical elements], and
noting some properly such as the melting point, for example, the
property would change as we went along the row, but as we
continued it would gradually come back to the condition very
similar to that which we started ... The eighth element was in
many respects like the first, the ninth like the second, the
tenth like the third, and so on. Such a slate of affairs
point[s] not only to a varied internal structure, but also to a
certain harmony in that variation suggestive of some organized
plan in building the atom.
Compare this with the parallel passage on p. 480 of the Urantia
Starting from any one element,
after noting some one property, such a quality will
exchange for six consecutive elements, but on reaching
the eighth, it tends to reappear, that is, the eighth
chemically active element resembles the first, the ninth
the second, and so on. Such a fact of the physical world
unmistakably points to the sevenfold constitution of
ancestral energy and is indicative of the fundamental
reality of the sevenfold diversity of the creations of
time and space.
Notice the care and elegance with which the second passage is
restated. While retaining the original sentence structures and
using similar wordings, the superhuman presenter departs from
the speculative tone of Swann’s last clause, inserting a
revealed statement of decisive significance in its place. Scores
of other examples of this technique appear in the books listed
below; their cumulative effect is truly astounding. Other
patterns of referencing, equally ingenious, are also
discernible; these will be brought forward in later essays. (In
this connection, it should be noted that in the listings, when I
describe passages in some of the books as being “reproduced with
little change” or “lightly rewritten,” etc., the changes may be
small in form but quite significant in substance.)
It must also be noted that these books have sometimes been of
great help in further understanding the papers that use them.
Often the presenters are obliged to present an abbreviated
treatment of a concept or a history which is discussed at
greater length in the human source. For instance, my
understanding of the book’s puzzling allusion to “cosmic
self-maintenance” (p. 482) was greatly enhanced when I came
upon this concept presented at length in the Noble book (see
below). In light of these benefits to the comprehension of both
content and context, I feel it would be helpful for the
readership to be made aware of these sources, and perhaps some
of these books with expired copyrights could be republished. It
would also be very helpful to scholars who will someday be
critically examining the Urantia Book.
The following listings are necessarily brief and incomplete. In
the coming months I intend to analyze some of these books at
greater length, detailing the often ingenious ways the
revelators make use of them. My main goals in each of the essays
will be: (1) to lay out the parallels between the book in
question and the Urantia Book, (2) to show how the superhuman
presenters enhanced the human statements with revelatory
information or insights, and (3) to see whether and how the
books shed light on the corresponding passages in the Urantia
Book In the meantime, I and other readers will be on the lookout
for more human sources. If anyone knows of books not included in
this list, I would be very grateful to hear from you.
Source List as of December 1992
1. Aston, W. G. 1905. Shinto (The Way of the Gods).
Longmans, Green, and Co., New York. (Paper 131, “The World’s
Religions,” section 7.) Sentences from Aston’s translation of
the “Wa Rongo” collection of Shinto Oracles, lightly rewritten
or paraphrased, constitute the entire selection of Ganid’s
abstract of Shinto.
2. Bishop, William Samuel. 1926.
The Theology of
Personality. Longmans, Green, and Co., New York.
(Foreword, section XII; Paper 106, Universe Levels of Reality,
section 8.) Though there appears to be no superhuman lifting of
content here, Bishop uses the terms “trinity,” “triunity, “
and—amazingly—“A Trinity of Trinities”; in the exposition of his
constructive theology. These terms are completely reworked in
3. Breasted, James Henry. 1933.
The Dawn of Conscience.
Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. (Paper 95, “The Melchizedek
Teachings in the Levant,” sections 2-5; Paper 111 “The Adjuster
and the Soul,” preamble.) Breasted’s analysis and assessments of
early Egyptian social idealism and religion—including the
teachings of Amenemope and lkhnaton, the ka and the ha,
Egypt’s influence on the Hebrews, etc.—are incorporated into the
UB’s corresponding discussions.
4. Bundy, Walter E. 1928.
The Religion of Jesus.
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis. (Paper 196, “The Faith
of Jesus,” preamble, sections 1-2; etc.) Portions from every
chapter of this book, whose thesis is that the human Jesus
founded the religion of personal experience and that we must
recover the religion of Jesus from the religion about
Jesus, are deftly concentrated in Paper 196 with the retention
of many of Bundy’s exact wordings.
5. Bundy, Walter E. 1929.
Our Recovery of Jesus.
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis. (Paper 196, “The Faith
of Jesus,” preamble, sections 1-2.) A companion volume to the
preceding book, this one has material that parallels paragraphs
in Paper 196 which were not paralleled by the preceding one. The
two books together supply about 95% of the basis of the preamble
and the first two sections. The last section differs in tone and
content and may be original with the midwayers.
6. Burton, Ernest DeWitt and Mathews, Shailer. 1901, 1927.
The Life of Christ. University of Chicago Press,
Chicago. (Part IV, passim.) The content of this book does not
appear to be used but rather its chapter and section titles.
Parallel titles include: “The Crisis at Capernaum,” “Discourse
on Spiritual Freedom,” “The Widespread Fame of Jesus (Christ),”
“The Man with the Withered Hand,” “The Woman Taken in Adultery,”
and “(More) Parables by the Sea.”
7. Cowdry, E. V, editor. 1930.
Human Biology & Racial
Welfare. Paul B Hoeber, Inc., New York. (Paper 51, “The
Planetary Adams,” section 4; Paper 65 “The Overcontrol of
Evolution,” section 2; Paper 82 “The Evolution of Marriage,”
section 6; etc.) The revelators tacitly reference essays by
Hrdlicka, Conklin and Davenport in their discussions of race
differences, the dangers and benefits of race mixing and the
feasibility of a modest eugenics program.
8. Edwards, Tryon, original compiler, 1890-1934 and later.
The New Dictionary of Thoughts. Classic Publishing Co.,
London & New York. (Paper 48 “The Morontia Life,” section 7.)
The vast majority of the 28 “statements of human philosophy” in
the Morontia Mota section are taken well-nigh consecutively from
the first 35 Pages of this 750-page book, which is arranged
alphabetically by subject. The subjects from which the
revelators cull quotations include: Ability, Accident, Action,
Adversity, Affectation, Affliction, Anger, Anxiety, Art,
Aspiration. These quotes are usually not reproduced verbatim in
the UB but are recast so as to have a more cosmic and spiritual
tone. [To read Matthew Block’s extensive study of these
here and here.]
9. Fosdick, Harry Emerson. 1933.
The Hope of the World.
Harper and Brothers, New York & London. (Paper 171, “On the Way
to Jerusalem,” section 7.) “Goodness is effective only when it
is attractive,” on p. 18 is the essence of Fosdick’s sermon “The
Fine Art of Making Goodness Attractive.”
10. Frost Jr., S.E., compiler and editor. 1943.
Writings of the World’s Great Religions. The New Home
Library, New York. (Paper 131 “The World’s Religions.”) This
book is a selection from previous—and, unfortunately,
uncited—translations of various holy books. The UB appears to
use the same translations of the Jain, Zoroastrian and Confucian
writings as Frost, as well as the Aston Shinto translation.
There is a remarkable degree of overlap in the passages selected
in the two books.
11. Hartshorne, Charles. 1941.
Man’s Vision of God.
Willett, Clark and Co., Chicago. (Foreword, section 1.)
Hartshorne’s list of the seven conceivable types of perfection
is reproduced almost verbatim on p. 3 of the UB. I suspect that
Hartshorne published an earlier (pre-1936) presentation of this
system in a journal, so it may already have been in print before
the Foreword was written.
12. Hopkins, E. Washburn. 1923.
Origin and Evolution of
Religion. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. The
whole of Paper 85, “The Origins of Worship,” is derived directly
from the first several chapters of this book, each section in
the paper corresponding almost exactly to a chapter in the book.
Paper 92, “The Later Evolution of Religion,” incorporates some
of Hopkins’ comments, as do Papers 90 and 96; and the preamble
and section 1 of Paper 104, “Growth of the Trinity Concept,” are
based directly on Hopkins’ chapters on “The Triad,” “The Hindu
Trinity,” “The Buddhistic Trinity,” and “The Christian Trinity.”
13. Jones, Rufus M. 1932.
A Preface to Christian Faith in
a New Age. Macmillan Co., New York. (Paper 195, “After
Pentecost,” sections 5-10.) Every chapter of the book is used in
the revelators’ discussions of Christianity’s struggle to awaken
to its spiritual mission in the face of modern secularism and
its own institutional shortcomings. Virtually every paragraph of
Section 10 (The Future) is drawn consecutively from the last
half of this book.
14. Jones, Rufus M. 1916.
The Inner Life.
Macmillan Co., New York. (Paper 102, “The Foundations of
Religious Faith,” preamble). Jones quotes the same two extracts
of Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship” (1903), which the
Melchizedek paraphrases in the first two paragraphs of the
paper. Both Jones and the Melchizedek use these passages to
illustrate materialistic despair, which can only be remedied by
faith in God and a spiritual interpretation of the universe.
15. Noble, Edmund. 1926.
Purposive Evolution: The Link
Between Science and Religion. Henry Holt and Co., New
York. (Paper 42, “Energy—Mind and Matter,” section 11; Paper
116, “The Almighty Supreme,” section 7.) Noble’s theory of
cosmic self-maintenance (the universe as purposive) is referred
to in the UB on p. 482; his chapter “Is the Universe an
Organism?” (in which he gives a negative answer) seems to be
responded to by the revelators on p. 1276-77: “The Living
Organism of the Grand Universe."
Henry Fairfield. 1928. Man Rises to Parnassus: Critical Epochs in the Prehistory of Man.
Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. (Paper 64, “The
Evolutionary Races of Color,” sections 2, 4; Paper 80, “Andite
Expansion in the Occident,” sections 3, 8, 9; etc.) This book
seems to be the prime source for the UB’s discussion of the
successive human races in Europe from the Foxhall Peoples to the
Neanderthals, the cro-Magnons and the ancestors of the Nordics.
The UB largely adheres to Osborn’s geological, racial and
cultural chronologies and to his characterizations of the
cultures of these various peoples. Osborn’s discussion of the
Bretons is paralleled exactly on p. 899 of the UB.
17. Palmer, George Herbert. 1930.
The Autobiography of a
Philosopher. Greenwood Press reprint, New York, 1968)
(Paper 181, “Final Admonitions and Warnings,” section 1.)
Palmer’s assertion of the superiority of the inner peace
resulting from faith in the Father’s loving care, over the “two
inferior forms of hardihood” (optimism and stoicism), is
paralleled in the UB’s discussion on pgs. 1954-55.
18. Sabatier, Auguste. 1904.
Religions of Authority and
the Religion of the Spirit. McClure, Phillips & Co., New
York. (Paper 155, “Fleeing Through Northern Galilee,” sections 5
& 6.) The sections in the UB 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 UB’s listing of the “three manifestations of the
religious urge” on p. 1728 correspond 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
19. Swann, W.F.G. 1934.
The Architecture of the Universe.
The Macmillan Co., New York. (Paper 41, “Physical Aspects of the
Local Universe”; Paper 42, “Energy—Mind and Matter,” passim.
Parts of Swann’s opening chapter on “The Dogmas of Natural
Philosophy” are reproduced with little change in section 9
(“Natural Philosophy”) of Energy—Mind and Matter. Many of his
temperature, size and distance estimates relating to
intra-atomic and astronomic bodies are used in the UB as are
several of his analogies and illustrations (e.g.., if the volume
of a proton should be magnified to the size of a head of a pin,
then, in comparison, a pin’s head would attain a diameter equal
to that of the earth’s orbit around the sun.)
Interweaving the Human and the Divine
These findings are leading to the realization that the
Urantia Book is the product of a masterful interweaving of
human and superhuman perspectives and insights. The warp of
the text was supplied, in the main, by the progressive lines
of religious and scientific thought of the early 20th
century. This period was in many ways a great age of
expanding horizons and enlarging concepts; many progressive
thinkers — including several in the list above — were
beginning to perceive and assert the interrelatedness of
science, philosophy, and spiritual insight. This burgeoning
sense of cosmic unity was abruptly eclipsed by the Second
World War, which cast a cloud of skepticism and chastened
hopes in its wake. But this eclipse was only temporary, and
the quest for the realization of cosmic unity is again being
taken up by progressive and creative people in society
The woof of the text was supplied by the superstructure of
revelatory themes and concepts which coordinate and unify
the human evolutionary insights. New and original
information touching on origins, history, and destinies are
introduced to shed light on the true meaning and import of
evolutionary perceptions, as well as to provide answers to
questions which logically arose from these perceptions.
One probable reason that the human sources were left
undisguised was to enable students to discern, through
comparative analysis, how this coordination of planetary
knowledge was actually effected. As mentioned above, the
initial analyses have already proved tremendously
illuminating in this regard. Another reason was to keep us
aware of the book’s anchorage in a specific time and place.
While a very large part of the book is of timeless value and
perennial applicability, some of its discussions directly
address and respond to the world situation of the early 20th
century. Thus, every generation will have to determine the
relevance and applicability of certain of the book’s
teachings to its own situation.
Emerging from all these discoveries is the gratifying
realization that the Urantia Book is exactly what its
authors claim it to be. In their discussions of what true
revelation is, the authors completely disavow certain
traditional connotations such as oracles falling from the
sky, or infallible prophecies written in stone. Rather, in
characterizing authentic revelation, they state:
The proof that
revelation is revelation is this same fact of human
experience: the fact that revelation does synthesize the
apparently divergent sciences of nature and the theology of
religion into a consistent and logical universe philosophy,
a coordinated and unbroken explanation of both science and
religion, thus creating a harmony of mind and satisfaction
of spirit which answers in human experience those
questionings of the mortal mind which craves to know how the
Infinite works out his will and plans in matter, with minds,
and on spirit. (p. 1106)
In this passage, the Urantia
Book captures the essence of its own magnificent
achievement, an achievement which is truly without peer or
precedent in the history of the world.
[In 1993 Matthew Block served on the office staff of The Fellowship for
Student and Readers of the Urantia Book in Chicago.]
In the ten years since this
article was written, I have found over one hundred more source
texts, and no longer consider several of the books in the above
list to be sources. These include:
The Way of the Gods and Frost’s The Sacred Writings
of the World’s Great Religions. Robert Ernest Hume’s
selection of religious scriptures, Treasure-House of the
Living Religions (1931), includes all the matching material
in Aston and Frost and is the obvious source of Paper 131.
The Hope of
the World. Francis Greenwood Peabody’s 1905 book,
Jesus Christ and the Christian Character, includes a
discussion of goodness and attractiveness and parallels several
other statements in 171:7.
The Inner Life.
John Baillie’s 1929 The Interpretation of Religion
is the evident source for the preamble and a few other sections in
Paper 102. Like Jones, Baillie cites Russell but, unlike Jones,
carries the discussion forward in a way that closely parallels the
UB’s ensuing remarks.
Evolution. J. E. Turner’s Personality and Reality
(1926) is the obvious source of 42:11. He too advances the theory
of cosmic self-maintenance, but his text corresponds with the UB
more closely and extensively.
Block, January 2003