© 1993 ANZURA, Australia & New Zealand Urantia Association
Sunshine Coast Study Group
Many events in this century have sounded ominous warning of the inherent dangers confronting individuals when subjected to pressures arising within social groups. Examples are: the excesses that derived from the Nietzschian master race paradigm thrust upon the German people by their Nazi leaders; the kamikaze behaviour of Japanese troops and airmen; the irrational succumbing by youth to peer group pressures in respect of potentially harmful habits (smoking, drug taking), or the idea that virginity status is shameful which may lead to a consequent exposure of immature minds and bodies to the hazards of pregnancy, AIDS, and venereal diseases. More spectacularly, there have been the bizarre outcomes attached to religious ministries such as that of the Reverend Jones whose flock committed mass suicide by taking cyanide, or the recent holocaust resulting from the Waco affair.
Of course, not all group behaviour has such dramatic effects and obviously there are benefits to be gained from belonging to a group. In fact, for we humans, our very survival is dependent on our participation in various groups, be it family, tribe, race, nation, etc. But what we need to be aware of is that our participation in any group may bring about behaviour patterns in individuals that they would certainly reject in the absence of group pressures.
Groups are a fundamental component of our social life. For most of our lives we are surrounded by groups and much of our life activity is spent in trying to get into groups, participating in groups, or trying to get out of groups — so much so that we become accustomed to them and their effects upon our behaviour as individuals goes unnoticed. Because the understanding of group behaviour patterns is of such importance for our welfare, the study of intragroup conduct has received much attention in social psychology with the result that facets of behaviour such as cohesiveness, conformity, leadership, compliance to authority figures, and polarization have been extensively studied.
A group can achieve much more than the sum of the efforts of its individual members. The URANTIA Book states:
“A social group of human beings in co-ordinated working harmony stands for a force far greater than the simple sum of its parts.” (UB 133:5.6)
That is the good news about groups. The bad news is that groups usually extract a price for membership that may include suppression of individual contribution, conformity, brainwashing, unthinking obedience to the majority, complete domination by a leader, etc.
The urge to conform, to be seen not to be different from other group members, is a very strong urge. Studies by social psychologists that pull strangers together for a brief period (minimal paradigm studies) have clearly shown an intrinsic need of us mortals to identify with a group. The very fact that four or five people are merely placed in the same room for the purpose of undertaking the same task will cause them to swiftly categorize themselves as group members. Consider then how strong this tendency must be when we actively seek group membership!
It Is Always Incumbent Upon Us To Seek To Do The Father’s Will, Rather Than acquiesce to the group will.
Hundreds of conformity studies using a variety of methods indicate that individuals often knowingly conform to the incorrect opinions of a majority. Some members simply comply, not wanting to appear out of step with the others in the group, or to appear stupid. Others change their opinion in the belief that the majority (or a strong leader) must be right.
Obedience to authority or to a conceived leader is such an enormously powerful tendency in us humans that it is essential to recognize it and to consider it objectively if we are to make correct decisions. Just how powerful this need to be led or to be told what to do is was illustrated by the hitherto inconceivable mass changing of sides that occurred with U.N. troops taken prisoner during the Korean war. The technique used against the prisoners was pathetically simple, and had nothing to do with an arduous and continuous brainwashing. In fact, the change was effected by merely observing the group behaviour of prisoners and removing to another camp, all those individuals who showed any signs of leadership. To collapse the morale of the rest and render them highly susceptible to indoctrination, less than 5% of prisoners were removed. But let’s not be too quick in convincing ourselves about our own superiority. Hear what a seraphim (Guardian of Destiny) said of her human charge (who must have attained at least third circle status):
“Much of my difficulty was due to the unending conflict between the two natures of my subject: the urge of ambition opposed by animal indolence; the ideals of a superior people crossed by the instincts of an inferior race; the high purposes of a great mind antagonized by the urge of a primitive inheritance.” (UB 111:7.5)
The all-too-human tendency to accept leadership and obey authority was demonstrated in a classic analysis of obedience by Milgram (1974) who instructed group members to give apparently painful and potentially deadly electric shocks to other members. He found that 65% of his subjects obeyed because they felt powerless to refuse the orders of the authority. Milgram considered that grotesque instances of obedience to malevolent authority, such as the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews and the Jonestown suicides and killings of children, to be instances of the same processes that he observed in his experimental work — those who obeyed orders had reached an ‘agentic’ state and no longer accepted responsibility for their own destiny. They were simply ‘agents’ of their leaders. In the Jonestown case, the Reverend Jones had emphasized loyalty and self-discipline and extolled the virtues of death in a noble cause. Eventually when he called for the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ his followers could only obey.
A second well-known classic study on aggression, obedience, and the power of roles on group behaviour is that of Zimbarbo et al (1972). A group of college students, selected for emotional stability, participated in a realistic prisoners and guards role-playing simulation. The study was designed to last for two weeks, but it had to be abandoned after six days during which the prisoners became servile, dehumanized people who thought only of escape and their mounting hatred of the guards. Guards abused the power that had been given them and became aggressive toward the prisoners.
The frightening thing about these findings is that the participants were normal, well-balanced people. The lesson to be learned is that when we humans put on our group hat, drastic behavioural changes can occur. Thus a URANTIA Book reader who achieves some ‘official’ status ranging from a Foundation Trustee or member of the F.E.F. Executive to a leader or convener of a study group will, almost inevitably, behave quite differently in the group environment. It is always incumbent upon us to seek to do the Father’s will, rather than acquiesce to the group will.
These changes in behaviour are likely to be related to the expectations of the individual joining a group. Mostly, we humans join groups in anticipation of some advantage accruing to ourselves, be it approval from our peers or even from God. So when we don the group hat, we are more likely to conform to the group mores rather than risk jeopardizing our group membership.
In such situations, even a sincere URANTIA Book reader who is genuinely seeking to conform to God’s will may unconsciously bend what they conceive to be God’s will to make it align with the group will. The cure is to follow the instructions of the book:
“To ‘follow Jesus’ means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the master’s life of unselfish service for man. One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose.” (UB 196:1.3)
Having taken on “the mind of Jesus” (UB 47:3.3), it becomes possible to do what you would expect Jesus to have done in similar circumstances.
Referring to the leadership of Jesus, The URANTIA Book states:
“Only three men who received his personal call refused to accept the invitation to discipleship. He exercised his personal drawing power over men, but he was not dictatorial. He commanded confidence, and no man ever resented his giving a command. He assumed absolute authority over his disciples, but no one ever objected. He permitted his followers to call him Master.” (UB 149:2.12)
But the critical difference was that:
“Jesus received the obedience of his followers without exacting it.” (UB 149:2.12)
Awareness of our inherent weaknesses is an imperative if we are to at least partially fulfil the plan and the leading of our Thought Adjusters during our mortal life. A Solitary Messenger informs us:
“The Urantia races are so largely electrically and chemically controlled, so highly animal-like in their common behavior, so emotional in their ordinary reactions, that it becomes exceedingly difficult for the Monitors to guide and direct them. You are so devoid of courageous decisions and consecrated co-operation that your indwelling Adjusters find it next to impossible to communicate directly with the human mind. Even when they do find it possible to flash a gleam of new truth to the evolving mortal soul, this spiritual revelation often so blinds the creature as to precipitate a convulsion of fanaticism or to initiate some other intellectual upheaval which results disastrously. Many a new religion and strange ”ism“ has arisen from the aborted, imperfect, misunderstood, and garbled communications of the Thought Adjusters.” (UB 110:4.5)
Besides drawing attention to our genetic deficiencies resulting from the Adamic default, this passage informs us that, at our present state of development, it is next to impossible for our Thought Adjusters to communicate with our human minds!
The URANTIA Book tells us that “only the Thought Adjuster directly contacts the human mind”. (UB 34:5.3) That should surely sound a warning to all URANTIA Book readers when considering the claims associated with group activities involving channelling. Literature from the ‘Teaching Mission’ that originated at Woods Cross, Utah, states that contact with celestial ‘teachers’ must be requested through our Thought Adjusters and subsequent communication must come via the Thought Adjuster with the aid of a Midwayer. How likely is this if it is next to impossible for our Thought Adjusters to communicate with our minds?
Recently the ‘Teaching Mission’ has expanded its horizons beyond just URANTIA Book readers. Now it is to all nations, races, and religions. It has also been stated that everybody who so desires may have their own celestial teacher. But since a teacher must contact the human mind through the Thought Adjuster with the aid of a secondary midwayer (UB 114:7.9), and since the number of secondary midwayers remaining on Urantia after the rebellion was 1,111 , will there not be a logistics problem? With the world population at something in the order of 4-5 billion, there can only be one secondary midwayer to every 4-5 million of us! Draw your own conclusions.
We must always remember that our gullibility tends to be amplified in a group situation and when we are already in a state of mind of wanting a supernatural experience before joining a group, our critical facilities will be severely hampered. Evidence has already been cited that this is the way we humans are, and not just a minority, it is so for virtually all of us!
In the May 1992 edition of Six-O-Six, Meredith Sprunger drew attention to errors by ‘Teacher Ham’ regarding the spiritual centre of the planet and the role of Norson. In transcripts we have from a ‘Teacher Bertrand’ session, a participant notices that Bertrand travels from the spiritual centre to his group “virtually instantaneously” whereas it takes Ham about an hour. When attention is drawn to the anomaly, no explanation is offered, and the matter is dropped. A question to Bertrand regarding the Healing Mission asks, “How come everybody dies that gets worked on?” A promise is made to contact Ham on this subject and, after repeated requests, Ham does put in a brief appearance, gives a message of encouragement, makes no mention of the Healing Mission, and departs unceremoniously giving no opportunity for questions. Subsequently Ham departed the planet, and the matter is allowed to lapse.
Here is a transcript from a session with celestial Teacher Bertrand channelled to a Transmitter/Receiver named ‘James’.
Student: Bertrand, have any of the teachers in this Teaching Mission fused with their Thought Adjusters yet?
Bertrand: One moment. [Pause.] No. We are all pre-fusion candidates.
Student: Even Ham?
Student: Ham was a gardener on Edentia and he still hasn’t fused?
No further discussion of this anomaly occurs. From The URANTIA Book we can glean that pre-fusion candidates are normally located on the mansion worlds. Although visits may be possible, there is no indication that candidates actually work outside the local system. Jerusem is the capital of our local system. Edentia is the capital of the constellation of Norlatiadek! We go there after fusion and after graduation from the local system. There, “The celestial artisans direct the native spornagia in this extensive work of botanic decoration and biologic embellishment”. (492) There is no indication that prefusion morontia beings from local systems are employed as gardeners in this work.
Currently in Australia, we are being assailed by two competing channelling groups, one hailing from Sedona, Arizona, the other originating in Woods Cross, Utah. The Sedona group provides us with an exhortation to obedience from their version of Machiventa Melchizedek, along with a veiled threat that we will see a different side of God if we do not comply. Also a warning is issued denigrating the Woods Cross Teaching Mission. From the Teaching Mission, Teacher Bertrand is asked: “In Sedona there is a person who claims that they are [sic] a transmitter-receiver for Gabriel. Are these instances authentic and is there some kind of co-ordination by Ham?” Bertrand responds: “Yes indeed they are co-ordinated… At this time, Gabriel is not transmitting through any individual on this planet”. Each centre has its own version of Machiventa Melchizedek.
It is not our function to make judgements on any of this channelled material. Our purpose is to draw the attention of URANTIA Book readers to the vast amount of investigative work that has been done on group dynamics with the finding that we unfortunate Urantians have very faulty critical facilities in group situations, as well as a tendency to be drained of individuality and willpower. However Jesus said: “When did I teach you that you must all see alike…what I require is spiritual unity”. (1591) Many roads lead to God and each must choose their own.
Although the channelling pathway is not likely to prevent us attaining God, if we choose this path, one reader has expressed this opinion: “Even if channelling is a true spiritual communication then what do I have to lose by not believing it? The other side of the coin is that if channelling is not true and I believe in it, the loss will be greater than the gain”.
In the paper referred to by Meredith Sprunger, we read: “One wonders why people feel a need for channelling guidance which, historically, does not have a very good track record, when they have direct personal contact with much higher sources of truth: their Thought Adjuster, the Spirit of Truth, and the Holy Spirit”.
Whereas it is true that we Urantians have great difficulty in communicating directly with our Thought Adjusters, nevertheless we can find evidence in our own lives and in the lives of others that our Thought Adjusters are really effective. Jesus once said “Only God is good”, and the book confirms that all evidence for the existence of personal attributes reflecting that which is holy, just, great, true, beautiful or good provide confirmation of the working of our Thought Adjusters. This must be so since all contact of human minds with the spiritual world is via our Thought Adjuster and all these attributes have their origin in God. So every one of our ‘good’ thoughts and our ‘good’ deeds tells us our Thought Adjuster is on the job despite poor direct communication.
Since Pentecost, another great spiritual influence has operated in the lives of all Urantians who seek his presence — the Spirit of Truth, the gift of the resurrected Jesus. The remarkable effectiveness of the Spirit of Truth is indicated by these words:
“In less than a month after the bestowal of the Spirit of Truth, the apostles made more individual progress than during their almost four years of personal loving association with the Master.” (UB 194:2.9)
We can know when the Spirit of Truth is being effective in our own lives because:
“The spirit never creates a consciousness of himself, only a consciousness of Michael, the Son.” (UB 194:2.4)
Consciousness of Jesus comes about through prayer and through familiarity with his life and teachings. Many of us find that our consciousness of Jesus is proportional to that familiarity, and when we have that, we can always ask ourselves the question in any situation: “What would Jesus have done?”
The URANTIA Book tells us that the secret of survival is in the supreme human desire to be Godlike, the willingness to do all things essential to the attainment of that desire. The success of our Adjuster depends very much upon our decisions, determinations, and steadfast faith. The importance of our own personal decisions is emphasized many times. Mostly these will be made independently of group interaction, they will be made with the aid of our spirit resources to guide us on what is really right, not merely what we think is right — and the spiritual value resident in all such decisions will be our everlasting possession.
Group interaction can be of tremendous personal and community benefit when we learn to avoid the negative effects of what we know as peer group pressure, the pressure we feel to conform for the sake of approval, regardless of the threat of accompanying error or evil. The benefits of good group activity is both obvious and essential for the material and spiritual progress of society. Possibly the most uplifting and valuable of all group activities is to be found in group worship. As with other human activities, we need to be discerning.
Would it not be marvellous if we could call upon a paradise ‘conductor of worship’ to really teach us about group worship?
Who can fail to be thrilled by these words:
“Worship is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences. Worship is the conscious and joyous act of recognizing and acknowledging the truth and fact of the intimate and personal relationships of the Creators with their creatures.” (UB 27:7.1)
“Sometimes all Paradise becomes engulfed in the dominating tide of spiritual and worshipful expression. Often the conductors of worship cannot control such phenomena until the appearance of the threefold fluctuation of the light of the Deity abode, signifying that the divine heart of the Gods has been fully and completely satisfied by the sincere worship of the residents of Paradise, the perfect citizens of glory and the ascendant citizens of time.” (UB 27:7.7)
One day in the far-distant future, such an occasion of group worship will mark our qualification for admission to the Corps of Finality. Thanks be to God that there are no mistakes that we can make that will prevent that day eventuating if that is our genuine desire.
Milgram, S. Obedience to Authority (Harper, New York, 1974)
Zimbarbo, P., Haney, C., Banks, W. & Jaffe, D. The Psychology of Imprisonment: Privation, Power, and Pathology Stanford University (1972)