Review: Spy Fail by James Bamford

There aren’t any philosophical danglers in this book (that I can see) to discuss, but there is the matter of Israeli apartheid. Several stories Bamford ties together begin with Israel and apartheid South Africa in the 1970s, particularly the man Arnon Milchan, an Israli agent who became (and still is) a billionaire Hollywood film producer. His story threads its way through half the book.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Israelis and South Africa were allies. In particular, the Israelis were actively helping South Africa maintain and strengthen apartheid. Arnon Milchan (before he was a Hollywood producer) was Israel’s primary asset on the ground in South Africa. But why? It was one thing for Israel to want friends; it had few enough. But why would a State composed of formerly oppressed people actively work to promote racial oppression? Jews are, as far as I can tell from America, no more biased against Black people than anyone else. But Jews in Israel, not all the people, but the government, are biased against Palestinian Arabs and have been since before 1948! When Israel became a State, there were far more Palestinians living in the territory than Jews. Supposedly emerging from the European democratic tradition, Israel immediately created a two-track hierarchy. Jews were citizens who had a vote. Palestinians living in Israeli territory were second-class citizens who did not.

Zionists (the term for militant Jews still in use today) planned an apartheid state from the beginning. There were more Arabs in Palestine than Jews, and no matter how many Jews flocked to the new Israel, the Arab population would always be able to out-reproduce them. There would never be a Jewish government in Palestine if Arabs had an equal vote. Today, the situation has become even more fraught. As Bamford points out, Israeli apartheid is worse than what black populations suffered in the southern tip of Africa! South Africa, after all, is a big country. There were places for the oppressed population to live. The same is not the case in Israel. Even the territory the Palestinians occupied until the 1967 and 1973 wars is now 85% Israeli! Further, the political climate in Israel has shifted far to the right because extreme right-wing Jews (mostly religious fundamentalists whose theologic egotism blocks any compromise, and not coincidentally are the occupants of all the Israeli settlements in what was Arab land on the West Bank) have, for decades, been out reproducing the much more liberal secular population.

Still, why support South Africa? A reading of Bamford’s book explains much. Israeli apartheid was overt from the beginning, but South Africa’s oppression of the black population went back to before the turn of the 20th century and was much more in the focus of the world’s attention than Israel’s. The longer South Africa could maintain apartheid, the longer Israel could avoid the world’s scrutiny. Zionists had an excuse. South Africa was not the world’s only white-dominated nation, but Israel is the world’s only “Jewish State.” When apartheid ended in South Africa (early 1990s), Israel was already decades into its American influence operations, with Milchan orchestrating much of it, and American presidents of both parties looking the other way for the sake of the Jewish vote and the lagress of big donors. 

Spy Fail by James Bamford 2023

This is, to put it bluntly, a fantastic read. Mr. Bamford is a professional journalist with almost forty years of investigative credentials in the counterespionage world behind him, beginning with the Puzzle Palace in the 1980s. Overall, the story is about the failure of America’s counterintelligence agencies (mostly the FBI, but also the NSA) to catch any spies until long after they have spied, sometimes for decades. But incompetence (and sometimes just bad luck) is one thing. In the book’s last tale, the FBI and Justice Department become positively demonic, persecuting a wholly innocent woman–whom they had themselves determined was innocent–because there was, at the time, a hysteria over Russian election meddling (Russiagate) and the FBI needed a Russian to parade before the media.

Bamford begins with a couple of hacking stories. One can complain about the shoddy state of security in Military computers and those of the NSA, CIA, and FBI. Still, in the end, it is impossible to prevent all penetration of even [supposedly] secure systems whether by actors outside the U.S. or employees within it. The most laughable case cited was one of the most serious, the theft of the most sensitive spy tools, software, developed by the NSA, and stolen by a hacker calling her/himself “Shadow Brokers.” As I said, it is hard to stop a hack until after it happens, but the shameful thing about this case is that Shadow Brokers, who claimed to be working INSIDE the American government, has to this day not been identified! By way of illustration, Bamford next relates the story of the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures as revenge for the Seth Rogan movie “The Interview.” That attack, and a number of others around the world by Russia, perpetrated with the tools stolen by Shadow Brokers!

The next and longest section in the book is about the Israelis, who have spied on and run influence operations in the U.S. for fifty years! In the 1970s and early 80s, it was about stealing nuclear secrets, not only secrets but physical uranium and nuclear bomb triggers. Since then it has been about managing perceptions of Israel (declared an apartheid state by every human rights organization in the world including those inside Israel) inside the U.S. Besides the Russians, no State wanted Trump elected president more than Israel; the Russians because Trump would weaken NATO and the European alliance, Israel because Trump would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and look the other way as Israel continues to squeeze the Palestinians! Russian disinformation has been all over the news, but not a whisper about Israel!

But this particular story, as Bamford details it, is not exactly a failure in U.S. counterintelligence. According to the author, the FBI has known all about what the Israelis have been doing in the U.S. since the beginning (the 1970s at least) and has dutifully reported it up the chain to the Justice Department under every president (Democrat and Republican) from Carter to Biden! But every administration, afraid to lose Jewish campaign money, has ignored the reports! The names of the head people involved on both the Israeli and American sides–Israel’s fifth column in the U.S.–are given, and their portfolios are detailed! Readers will be shocked at the revelations, even more so if they are familiar with the Hollywood scene. Israel is after much more than merely electing pro-Israel candidates. Bamford lays out a vast Israeli operation since the mid-2000s to suppress the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction” movement that seeks to have Israel abandon its apartheid anti-Palestinian policies by applying the same sort of pressure the world applied to South Africa. I will address some of this further in my blog.

Beyond the Israel story, Bamford delves into more traditional sorts of spies, all of which the FBI failed to catch until after much damage had been done. Sometimes not even then. In one case, a beautiful Chinese double agent (ultimately working for China) was sleeping with her two FBI handlers (see the book Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China by David Wise for more detail on that story)!

Bamford’s last story is that of the brutal treatment of a young graduate student, Maria Butina, who had the misfortune of being Russian, interested in geopolitics, and have started a small organization in Russia hoping to promote gun ownership. The FBI had investigated the girl a year earlier and concluded that she had no connection whatsoever with the Russian government. But when the Russiagate hysteria broke out in 2017, and then just after the release of the movie “Red Sparrow”, the Justice Department decided they had to go after someone to divert media attention from their own bungling of the matter. Ms. Butina was Russian, like the character in the movie. She was young, pretty, and a redhead. She was interested in the NRA and went to some Trump rallies. An entirely fabricated case was put together. Maria was arrested and psychologically brutalized before she pleaded guilty to conspiracy–a bargain to get out of indefinite solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. For three months she was held in solitary having done nothing at all! Still, the poor woman served another twelve months in prison on the trumped-up conspiracy charge before being flown back to Russia!

But the FBI and the military learn little. Despite Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, a young man, a twenty-one-year-old air national guardsman has been arrested for putting a trove of top secret documents on a server in a private chat group some six months ago! He wasn’t trying to sell or release the documents for political purposes. It was all about impressing his buddies on the chat group! Of course, the boast went on too long. Somebody in that private group released the documents more widely. The FBI didn’t catch wind of it until the whole world saw them!

Highly recommended reading! I expect America’s counterintelligence has successes (however that is measured), but the depth and extent of the failures are shocking. Enjoy!

Some Issues Related to the Origins and Authenticity of The Urantia Book by Bob Boden

This essay by Bob Boden, was written originally in response to my essay “Problems with the Cosmology and Astronomy of The Urantia Book”. It is still reproduced at the end of that article. It notes problematic issues I did not discuss and I thought it deserved a wider distribution. I have but lightly edited (syntax only) the version published here.

Hello Quine,

By way of introduction, I’m Bob Boden and have read and studied the UB since 1970. I was an early FUSLA (First Urantia Society of Los Angeles) member…#78 as I recall. I knew Julia Fenderson quite well; she sponsored my membership. I met Emma (Christy) Christensen in 1973. From such folks as these I’ve heard first-hand a number of stories about Sadler and Urantia apocrypha. I knew Vern Grimsley for more than a decade before his great unraveling. I’ve read the book from cover to cover on multiple occasions, and my wife and I hosted study groups for many years. For nearly 50 of those years, I was confident of the authenticity of the book. I am no longer.

I decided to write this after reading your essay. We have both taken the increasingly apparent inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the UB under consideration. The improbability of a physical universe as described in the book, and the impact that has on the personality ascension scheme, combine with questions about book origins to cast increasing doubt in my mind regarding its authenticity. I’ve come to a different conclusion regarding these issues than your own, and I’d like to share it with you.

Three years ago, a cover-to-cover read left me uneasy. Though containing some fine philosophy and useful wisdom, it no longer appeared to be authentic in its claims of otherworldly origins nor its description of the cosmos. This was a significant change in my thinking. I had long accepted the explanations for inaccurate science in the book, counseled as we are regarding the “need for revision” of much of the science, but the scale of outright fantasy being passed off as cosmology, biology, archeology, and particle physics, among others, seemed puzzling. What was the point of this? That which I had previously viewed as novel cosmological and historical planetary information appeared incorrect, as those sciences have advanced markedly since the mid-twentieth century. It was apparent that the information offered as science or history in the book that could be testable was often wrong for reasons difficult to explain.

Many stories seemed contrived. The examples are legion, and I mention but a few. The Original Sin story got a more modern twist with humans being animals with no future universe career until adjuster indwelt. I don’t think it is any more believable for the makeover. The Eve default seemed laughably improbable for a being of such alleged universe experience, and there is real trouble with fandors, or at least the physics of riding on one. An extinct condor, Argentavis, had a wingspan of 20 feet and weighed about 160 pounds. It is the largest known true flying bird. It could not generate sufficient lift by wing flapping to stay aloft without riding columns of heated air and probably took off by running into the wind. A human riding on a bird taking off is not possible. The physics is pretty clear. As the wingspan increases, the wing area increases by the square, and the bird’s weight increases by the cube. Large birds can only carry about 30% of their weight. In order to carry a 200-pound adult human, the bird would need a wingspan in excess of 40 feet and weigh about 600 pounds. That’s a pretty big bird. About the size of a small jet like the Embraer Phenom 100. Takeoff from the ground would be impossible, as flapping the wings would cause them to strike the ground with each stroke.

The Rebellion story is equally problematic. Isolating helpless beings for hundreds of thousands of years while more realized and experienced beings are given unlimited time to choose between good and iniquity seems hardly sporting. It reminds me of the Covid pandemic…mass quarantines ultimately had little effect on disease transmission but produced disastrous collateral damage. It would seem that the best policy here would be to protect and nurture the young and less able while the big people war with each other. Civilized beings do it that way. The idea of being an experiment for these beings feels a bit too much like a William Golding novel. It appears to me that the rebellion story is likely fiction, and like other “revealed” content, appears to be embellishments of apocryphal stories in Iron Age religious texts from a time of superstition and widespread illiteracy.

Despite saying they would not foreshadow scientific discoveries of a thousand years, the revelators offered a new fundamental particle. My readings in particle physics suggest that ultimatons have no theoretical or experimental basis. There is, as I understand it, a fairly good understanding of electron architecture, though precisely how it obtains its mass is unknown, and it is not known to be reducible. Quantum field architecture, in its mathematical description, does not suggest being composed of tiny spheres. Some argue that we simply lack the current requisite capacity to detect them. That general argument can’t be dismissed out of hand. There are many instances where new discovery replaces old theory. But quantum mechanics has brought us to the Planck level of propagated perturbations in quantum fields. Even more than our increasingly accurate view of the cosmos, quantum electrodynamics is astonishingly accurate in its predictions of physical phenomena. It has been referred to as the jewel of physics and used to successfully explain why silk is soft, diamonds hard, and all physical phenomena except gravity and nuclear forces which have only conjectural quantum counterparts. One would need to revise current theories of the strong nuclear force, gluons, quarks, and gravity, among other things, in order to substantiate the UB version of field potency, electron, and hadron dynamics. I was surprised to learn that by the mid-1920s quantum mechanics theory was fairly fully developed. de Broglie’s 1923 theory of matter waves was extended by Heisenberg, Born, and Jordan who developed matrix mechanics, and Schrödinger who invented wave mechanics. It was widely accepted by the late 1920s. Not surprisingly, the book makes reference to it without attribution but extends it to invent a particle more fundamental than the quantum field.

42:5.4 2. Ultimatonic rays. The assembly of energy into the minute spheres of the ultimatons occasions vibrations in the content of space which are discernible and measurable.

This puts ultimatons into the Standard Model with no theoretical or experimental validation.

Amazingly, quantum wave/particle duality is solved with the flick of the wrist thus:

42:5.14 The so-called ether is merely a collective name to designate a group of force and energy activities occurring in space. Ultimatons, electrons, and other mass aggregations of energy are uniform particles of matter, and in their transit through space they really proceed in direct lines. Light and all other forms of recognizable energy manifestations consist of a succession of definite energy particles which proceed in direct lines except as modified by gravity and other intervening forces. That these processions of energy particles appear as wave phenomena when subjected to certain observations is due to the resistance of the undifferentiated force blanket of all space, the hypothetical ether, and to the intergravity tension of the associated aggregations of matter. The spacing of the particle-intervals of matter, together with the initial velocity of the energy beams, establishes the undulatory appearance of many forms of energy-matter

This sounds pretty good, but there are underlying assumptions that we currently don’t observe. Undifferentiated force blanket, the hypothetical ether, and intergravity tension are novel explanations. They may ultimately appear in our physics, perhaps with different names, but the whole thing violates the precept of not revealing future science and cannot be taken for true.

What is the point of fabricating this stuff in order to deliver a spiritual message? Its assertions about the transit of a surviving mortal personality through a structured, corporate universe appear to be a metaphor or invention. Increasingly the testable assertions in the book have been found to be false. JWST has pretty much dispelled any illusions of the book’s cosmology being correct, as you thoroughly explained in your essay. It is then more difficult to take as true other assertions which seem contingent upon that cosmology. I’m reminded of an old phrase that “only half the lies the Irish tell are true”. I’m having difficulty telling which lies are true here. There seems to be no rational explanation for these and many other issues which have come to my mind, except that the book is not authentic.

You’ve suggested a metaphorical or literary/dramatic solution to the question…a vehicle to convey otherwise less understandable or dramatically compelling content, as I understand it. I can’t make sense of it in that way. Is that saying that the real story of personality survival would not be interesting enough or understandable to humans without these apparent fabrications? What seems to follow from this is that the actual story is so unintelligible or uninspiring to humankind to require this device. I would then have to conjecture that the reality of the spiritual universe and the experience of personality survival would be alien to human experience and understanding, calling into question the applicability of the experience of human phenomenal consciousness as an initial phase of the personality’s universe journey. Taking these things on “faith” requires me to swallow a caravan of camels.

There is another hard problem with the UB, and all religious doctrines. Perhaps the hardest. I’m deeply skeptical of claims of events that transcend natural physical law. My skepticism increases when secrecy is used to obscure or prevent a thorough examination of the claim. A study of Joseph Smith and the “revelatory” Book of Mormon, as well as the various “miracles” now associated with the origins of the LDS Church, reveals two marked similarities with the appearance of the UB… both origins are shrouded in secrecy, and both depend upon events which transcend natural physical law.

I think it is important not to “whistle past the graveyard” with this, as it is at the core of the UB’s existence, the authenticity of Jesus, and the authority of the world’s religions. For instance, the 1848 Mormon “Miracle of the Gulls” was not recognized as a miracle until a few years after the event. It was local knowledge that the resident gulls of the Great Salt Lake periodically descended upon the massive blooms of Mormon Crickets. There are no known records contemporary with the event which describe it as miraculous. The LDS Church’s official summary of the first few years of the Mormons living in the Salt Lake Valley mentioned the crop damage, frost, and crickets, but not the gulls. It was not until 1853 that it was designated a miracle and became part of the central narrative of the Mormon Church. What is one then to think about the miracles of antiquity? What credence may one attach to descriptions of events transpiring two millennia in the past from persons who did not witness them? Or the writings of those who spoke with those who claimed to witness such things. Or to claims even from Chicago from the early 20th century. It is entirely logical and reasonable to cast a jaundiced eye upon all such claims.

I find it most probable that all miracles of the past, including the resurrection, reviving the dead, and other supernatural events associated with Jesus and all other religious figures, are likely to be of the same character. I have heard readers accept the miracles of Jesus, while discounting those claimed by other religions. This is characteristic of human psychology. Humans both filter and embellish their experiences in psychologically predictive ways, especially in groups and over time. Muslims prefer the miracles of Allah.

Thousands claimed to witness a miracle of the Sun dancing in the sky, which they interpreted as divine, in 1917 at Fatima, Portugal. Modern scientific analysis revealed the event to be one of illusion prompted by expectation and meteorological phenomena. Extremely low probability outcomes, which nonetheless have some actual small probability of occurring within the constraints of natural physical law, like surviving accidents or avoiding disaster, are often described as miraculous. Cloth or even toast with the purported image of Jesus is viewed by some as miraculous. Apocrypha from two millennia in the past provides unreliable testimony as to actual events. I am convinced, for instance, that there have been no “translations” of humans in “fiery chariots” a la Enoch. One might reasonably expect a fairly large number of these events in more modern times, given the exponentially larger current human population. They don’t occur. Seems probable that this is, like the Melchizedek saga and so many stories in the UB, most likely an embellishment of biblical Apocrypha.

In 2005, neuroscientist Karl Diesseroth used optogenetic techniques of selective control of brain neurons with light to trigger or suppress specific behaviors in mice and to probe the structure and dynamics of circuits related to schizophrenia, autism, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Other researchers have probed the functions of brain structures in humans which seem to produce the sensation of mystical awe and of the invisible presence of another being. These studies suggest a more natural explanation of “revelatory” religious phenomena. There are documented cases of stroke or seizure victims with no prior history of personal religiosity suddenly becoming hyper-religious. A study of Vietnam veterans (Neural Correlates of Mystical Experience, (Cristofori, Bulbulia, et al, Neuropsycologia, Jan. 2016, Vol 80, pp 212-220) showed that those who had been injured in the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were more likely to report mystical experiences. Studies with psilocybin propose a theory of the chemical induction of mystical thinking and revelatory religious experience by the mechanism of decoupling of the Default Mode Network of brain activity affecting the medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus. ( Barrett, Fredrick S, Griffith, Classic Hallucinogens and Mystical Experiences: Phenomenology and Neural Correlates, Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2018, 36, 393-430). I experienced effects like those identified with spirit contact when I took psilocybe cubensis mushrooms in 1971.

The intentional decoupling of the DMN through meditation can also produce the sensations of mystical awe and the invisible presence of another being. One might argue that these brain structures and responses are evidence or proof of God or other spirit influences that they are part of the brain encircuited by the adjutant mind circuits described in the UB, and that what is sensed is the presence of deity. But no such frequencies have been discovered to which the material structures of the brain are known to respond, and artificial stimulation or pathological and traumatic injury to specific brain regions are known to produce these phenomena. I think it is illogical to invent a metaphysical explanation in the presence of such evolving understandings of brain science.

This does not diminish the observable positive effects resulting from the stimulation of these brain assemblies in some people through meditation and prayer. Au contraire. There seem to be powerful evolutionary predispositions, imperatives, and advantages associated with these attitudes and behaviors. Some of the finest people I have met have been religionists who routinely engage in these practices, as well as non-religionists whose meditations are not deistic. Many successfully rely upon them to cope with and explain life’s vicissitudes.

Dr. John C. Wathey, Ph.D. ( The Phantom God and The Illusion of God’s Presence) explores a possible neuroethological basis for human mystical experience and identifies specific evolutionary imperatives and brain structures which are involved. Neuroethology is “the evolutionary and comparative approach to the study of animal behavior and its underlying mechanistic control by the nervous system. It is an interdisciplinary science that combines both neuroscience (study of the nervous system) and ethology (study of animal behavior in natural conditions).” (Wikipedia). His assertions are novel…that the feelings of religiosity and the sense of an invisible presence are at least partially generated and mediated by specific brain structures which are the source of innate templates related to the relationship of infant and mother. But for the most part, they are logical and defended with both established and plausible science. Theories like his are useful because they are testable, unlike metaphysical explanations. This particular theory may be incorrect, but I think that progressive evolution, absent the assumption of divine design or overcontrol, may well have the capacity to explain these phenomena.

Consideration of Dr. Sadler’s history and writings has played a role in my deliberations. I never met him, but many of my older associates had. I won’t discuss it all here; his history is available from multiple sources. Marvin Gardner discusses much of it in his book Urantia, The Great Cult Mystery, and concludes that it is more probable that the book is of human origins, with Sadler either being taken in by a psychological phenomenon or orchestrating its production with objectives similar to those of Joseph Smith or Ellen White, the Adventist channeler. That is, to create a new and better religion. It is apparent that Gardner has much less detailed knowledge of the book than a long-time reader, but his critique is not superficial. It is a serious conclusion by a serious intellect, not to be brushed aside casually.

Folks have gotten around issues with the text in a number of ways. Matthew Block has made a great effort to discover the events where the “revelators” have used the best human thought instead of an inspired explanation. He defends divine origins in the face of rampant unattributed plagiarism and takes it as evidence of the book’s authenticity, ostensibly because the authors said they were doing it. Many believe this to be true. Parsimony suggests it was curated and used by humans absent divine inspiration. Many other readers, like Meredith Sprunger, have in the past elaborated explanations generally consisting of the perspective that the spiritual truths are so powerful as to render the issue of manifold factual errors and mysterious origin moot. I believe, If I read you right, that is your conclusion. Phil Calabrese has for years defended the science in the book. His predictions that we would discover the truth of such UB assertions as Eden and ultimatons have required significant revision over the years. His more recent, mathematically dense essay ( The New Cosmology of The Urantia Book) comparing book content with current particle physics is erudite, but to the extent I could understand it, his assertions and proofs were unconvincing (they are very technical and require a grasp of particle physics and mathematics well above my pay grade). As part of his thesis, he references Kurt Gödel’s view of universe construction and rotation.

“The Gödel metric, also known as the Gödel solution or Gödel universe, is an exact solution of the Einstein field equations in which the stress-energy tensor contains two terms, the first representing the matter density of a homogeneous distribution of swirling dust particles (dust solution), and the second associated with a negative cosmological constant (see Lambdavacuum solution). Following Gödel, we can interpret the dust particles as galaxies so that the Gödel solution becomes a cosmological model of a rotating universe. Besides rotating, this model exhibits no Hubble expansion, so it is not a realistic model of the universe in which we live but can be taken as illustrating an alternative universe, which would in principle be allowed by general relativity (if one admits the legitimacy of a negative cosmological constant). Less well-known solutions of Gödel’s exhibit both rotation and Hubble expansion and have other qualities of his first model, but traveling into the past is not possible. According to Stephen Hawking, these models could well be a reasonable description of the universe that we observe. However observational data are compatible only with a very low rate of rotation. The quality of these observations improved continually up until Gödel’s death, and he would always ask “Is the universe rotating yet?” and be told “No, it isn’t”.” (Wikipedia)

Phil selects one of the lesser-known solutions, all of which, unless I am misunderstanding, violate one element of Einstein’s field equations. We either have to accept a negative cosmological constant value or a violation of time expression in quantum physics to make it work.

I think attempts to justify seemingly incorrect cosmology and science like this reveal a basic uneasiness about this dichotomy with many readers. He has also offered a probability analysis of the book’s provenance. Despite its elegance…Phil is a brilliant mathematician…I think it may suffer from the same problem as Drake’s Equation in providing estimates of the probable number of worlds in the universe inhabited by intelligent life. Contained in each are variables that I think cannot be derived from experience.

The book indeed contains much wonderful philosophy and should, given the unrestricted use of the best of human thought. It also contains an engaging, inspiring, and detailed story about the life of Jesus. But all of that appears within the context of the book’s empirically untestable or provably false assertions. Sadler’s personal bias, known from his previous writings, regarding a number of religious, social, and biological theories, appears too frequently to be disregarded. I don’t dispute the ennobling philosophic and moral value of some UB content, rather I now suspect that the whole corporate universe and God delineations are fantasy and the Jesus story an embellishment on previous accountings. If Michael of Nebadon, in his earthly guise, performed acts that transcended physical law, he must have been aware that those “miracles” would provide the bona fides of the Christian religion. The Resurrection is his bona fides. It’s reported in the Jesus Papers as a factual event. Surely a few modern demonstrations of the craft could do no harm.

The fact remains that Sadler destroyed all material that would elucidate the actual processes by which the UB came into existence. If indeed he witnessed actual events which transcended physical law and directly communicated with non-human universe personalities, one wonders if he and the small group of individuals who claimed this contact then sacrificed their agondontor status in doing so. We know things most unusual are claimed to have taken place. In his writings, he argues that some of the transactions with the revelators defied description. I should very much like to try.

That is an interesting proposition. If no impediment to witnessing celestial contact exists, why not give a crack at it to a regular Dick or Jane? Or billions of them, for that matter. The teaching mission claims this, but the content of their messages often contradicts the book, themselves, and good sense. On one occasion a group with such leanings built a bonfire and danced around it to welcome the appearance of a Melchizedek to the planet. The ritual was apparently unsuccessful. Gabriel of Urantia (aka Tony Delevin) predicted the end of the world and apparently arranged for spaceships to rescue his followers from the cataclysm. Predictably, neither the end of the world nor the spaceships arrived. Vern Grimsley convinced himself and a large number of otherwise rational book readers that celestial personalities told him nuclear war was at hand. I think that it is unfortunate that the book’s most probable future is to have it’s useful content diminished by some of its more bizarre adherents and its unsupportable claims and inaccurate telling of history, science and cosmology. One might suppose that the Most Highs would have thought this out a little more fully.

The book has been hijacked by charismatic and clever crackpots like Gabriel of Urantia, many in the so-called Teaching Mission, and more reasonable though intensely evangelical folks like Vern Grimsley, all of whom succumbed to voices in their heads after demanding to hear them. It has been fought over like a marrow bone among starving dogs with Martin Meyers proclaiming celestial guidance in unsuccessfully directing the scrum during its critical copyright transition. This internecine warfare has polarized the movement. I watched an old friend “channel” many years ago during the beginning of the “Mission”. Folks were all in a lather about it. Even back then I rejected the authenticity of the thing, and in this particular case, felt for many specific reasons that it was no more than a self-fulfilling prophecy in a person psychologically predisposed to such activities. The “messages” were usually rather pedestrian or outright nonsense, exemplified by all of us finding out our “spiritual” names. All of this, I think, is the mind deluding itself.

The book also contains needlessly inflammatory content. It has sown the seeds of rejection by many rational folks for its statements about race and eugenics. One wonders if the Most Highs might not have anticipated our current cultural turmoil less than 75 years after publication and thought better about opining in the manner they employed unless, of course, it was Sadler showing through. He seems to quite often. It is difficult to see the utility and not difficult to imagine the harm of presenting such content and making such statements directly after the close of WWII. I would have expected that the Most Highs would have ordered such content edited out prior to publication.

My wife Cheryl and I were both Registered Nurses by profession. Perhaps more than most other folks, as a function of our work, we saw much of the worst and most terrible human suffering, as well as some of the saddest and most disrupted human behavior. We are also parents of a schizophrenic son. We never saw a glorified hem to touch for agonized parents experiencing the death of a child. The sheer cruelty of afflicting nearly two of every one hundred humans, regardless of culture or race, with schizophrenia and shattering the material mind for the sake of an experiment in biology, or a default in cosmic watch-care, strains credulity. And that is just one element of widespread human suffering. The suffering of many millions born into circumstances exponentially less advantageous than our own with no greater comfort than “don’t worry, it will all work out” seems too easy to bear by our unseen “friends”. I don’t buy the idea that many must suffer desperately so that others might be afforded the opportunity to be altruistic. Many do believe that. They tend to be on the altruistic side of things. I spent my working life in service to folks in crisis and spent much more time among them than most. The suffering is local, personal, devastating, and often undeserved. I can’t imagine sitting back after the failure of my own efforts, and surveying the scene with some sort of cosmic smugness while consigning blameless humans to such terror and misery, no matter how short the time may be in cosmic terms. Seems hardly equitable to blow so critical an assignment as the genetic uplift project and then blame the primitives (in a very real sense) for failure to upstep themselves biologically. It also seems to me unlikely that those responsible for the creation and watch-care of struggling and suffering beings would display behaviors clearly absent from those central to loving parenting. I have carefully considered the justifications in the book for such behavior. They suggest either a rather bumbling set of outworlders or ones demonstrably cruel. The uber-reality evolution of the Supreme would appear to involve some roadkill. The results of the genetic crapshoot are perilous for many and borne too easily by many less afflicted.

Some of my Urantia associates have been reasonably inquisitive, though often surprised, regarding my change in thinking. Others don’t care to discuss it with me. One was concerned that I had come under Caligastia’s nefarious influence. I’ll take that risk, as opposed to fearing non-existent influence from a likely fictional character. It’s an extraordinary explanation for a much more ordinary event. One must first accept the reality of an invisible being who would have the power to influence one’s thought if one were to question or abandon the orthodoxy or seek other possible answers to these questions. That acceptance is based upon a story in a book that contains a great deal of provably false content. I think that kind of magical thinking is quite dangerous and destructive of inquisitive thought. How could one operate intellectually under those circumstances?

I have no thought to dissuade others from their beliefs but rather to describe a few of the factors which have now persuaded me, after so many years, that the book is most likely one of human philosophy embedded in a fanciful accounting of the origins and nature of the universe. It appears to have been written by men with no verifiable contact with unseen universe personalities. I do not think that its statements about the human soul nor those of the transit of that soul in the universe can be regarded as authentic.

I have given up my former assurances grudgingly. This perspective is the product of my own evolution. As you can see, I have extended my readings well outside the orthodoxy to include reasonable alternative explanations for these things as part of my deliberations. It was more comfortable to think that the book actually reported spiritual realities and destinies. I have always wanted the book to be true and authentic. But after much reflection, I think that it is probably not so. That said, I remain open to the truth as I can perceive it.

I don’t have a good answer for creation. We are not privy to hundreds of millions of years of the universe’s early history. Even the heat from the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation that pervades all space only gets us to within about 400,000 years of the singularity event we call the Big Bang. It is unclear to me whether eternal deity is the creative force behind universe reality or if the universe is simply pre-existent. One is as remarkable as the other and no less probable. I don’t have an acceptable theory for the origin of life, but I don’t rule out an origin devoid of divine intervention. That science continues to evolve. The Fermi Paradox bothers me. The universe should be teeming with intelligent life if the book is to be believed. Yet we find no evidence of it. I don’t know what if any destiny a person has in the universe. I’m unable to accept their story at face value. If it is true, we will all discover it eventually. Matthew Rapaport and others observe that the core theology of the book eclipses anything previously produced by humankind. I agree. It is the only reason for my reticence to reject it entirely.

I am aware that much of this essay involves a reductionist approach, which has limitations when explainable phenomena are apparently no longer reducible and emergent phenomena are not explainable with current science. The physical brain and emergent mind illustrate that principle. But that doesn’t prompt me to abandon logic and rational thinking in the face of so many unsupportable claims in the book. From the times when earthquakes and thunder were thought to be caused by invisible agents, humans have always attributed unseen agency to things they don’t understand. Science and rational thought have progressively pushed that agency out of the earth, animals and sky out into the universe. I think it is true that an assertion made without evidence may be dismissed without evidence. Subjective “spiritual” testimony is too widely variable to be definitive, and current science is suggesting an underlying ethological and neurobiological explanation for the ground state upon which the subjective mystical experience is constructed.

I don’t write this to demean or diminish the personal experiences or convictions of those who believe the UB is authentically inspired. The mystical experiences they have may well involve authentic contact with deity, and my current persuasions may well be wrong. I cannot rule out the possible spiritual authenticity of the UB, but I am not convinced of it. I suppose I will eventually learn the truth about this or not. In my case sooner than later at age 75. I share your impatience with those who seem to need to defend the “science” in the book in order to justify its origins and spiritual authenticity. They do no good service for those to whom they introduce the text. Honest faith is one thing, clever reframing or plain denial quite another. I will continue my wondering. Thank you for your thought-provoking essay. It was a pleasure to read.