Episode:The Contemplative Life (Part 2)

From Symmetry of Soul

Dr. Gard Jameson has a long service history in the Urantia community and has been influential in the growth of the Interfaith movement. He offers Urantia Book inspired insights to his classroom students and religious colleagues while he reminds Urantia Book readers about the pearls of wisdom in all the world's religions. His knowledge of eastern philosophy and ancient mythology, and how these relate to living a contemplative life style, engages people from all walks of life.

Listen to the broadcast

Keywords: Contemplative Life, Comparative Mythology, Asian Philosophy, Depth Psychology

Note: Gard Jameson joined the broadcast as our guest to share his perspective on the topic. Byron Belitsos also joined the broadcast.

Summary by Brad

On the practice of contemplative prayer/worship

"In my experience," says Gard, "the contemplative life provides the only real opportunity to step into a full experience of meaning." Gard explains that within each of us is place of light, love, health, and mental acuity. But this inner domain is like a muscle: it must be used to grow, otherwise it atrophies.

How do we access this? By simply showing up and consenting to God's action within us. It's nothing more or less than a simple freewill choice—"one brave stretch of faith on the part of the most humble and unlearned of God’s children on earth." [102:0.2]. Any relationship is built on intimacy and intentionality, including one with God. Can prayer be more than a few seconds before a meal? Can you be present with God for 30 minutes a day? "Once a day for maintenance, twice a day for improvement," says Thomas Keating. Gard explains that, with enough time, God can be present in every moment of your day. And to Gard, "that's light and life." To Gard, the nature of Deity is unconditional love, absolute forgiveness, a motivator for ministry. "That's the Trinity, the essence of what God's about," concludes Gard. "The journey to heaven is through heaven," Gard quotes the mystic Catherine of Siena, a reminder that the kingdom of heaven is within, here, now.

Gratitude is part of the contemplative journey, says Gard. Observe Marcus Aurelius' gratitude, even for difficult people in his life, in Book 1 of the Meditations. "As I am good to those who are good, so I am also good to those who are not good," says Lao-tse.

Contemplative prayer may be more akin to worship, which need not be complicated (worship is not ritual). Rituals as ends unto themselves are dead, not alive. Yet there is something true in them if they are a means to something greater.

Chris cautioned that Jesus' metaphor about branches bearing fruit lest they be cast into the fire is a metaphor about those children who have become adults of God and therefore have greater responsibilities. As mere children of God, all God expects of us is for us to be moving forward in humble faith submission. There is no minimum required speed. Gard mentioned a growth path in our lives from dependence, independence, then (oft overlooked) interdependence on God and others, and finally inter-being. Chris agrees that those who reach interdependence are cosmic citizens and are no longer self-upholding, but are upheld by the cosmos.

A contemplative practice may minister to any open-minded agnostic who has lost sight of God. If they are willing to consider the proposition that experience is the technique of validation/proof of religion, and if they are willing to try contemplative prayer (even if they don't like the name "God"), they can see if it produces the expected results in weeks or months. "Tell me about the God you don't believe in," says Gard to these unbelievers, "because I probably don't believe in that God either. Let's talk about the God of unconditional love." God is experienceable.

Gard concludes, "'There is inherent joy in freewill existence' [28:5.16] to those that would experience the inner presence of the divine presence. Joy is our birthright, our inheritance." Gard invites all to the contemplative journey.

On upbringings and formative experiences

Gard says his father was "distant, critical, and authoritative," paralleling adjectives many today use to describe their concept of God. All on the broadcast agree that "early home life" [177:2] and effective parenting is crucial. However, Gard says that no matter any unfortunate upbringing, we can "spiritually reparent," be healed and transformed through the contemplative life. In reality, our true parents are God the Father and God the Mother (or as Gard said, "the Supreme, the Divine Mother, the Creative Spirit") and our earthly parents are more akin to associates in the ascension career.

In 1971 one of Gard's friends was badly wounded in the Vietnam war by children with a grenade. "God, if you're there I need to know," prayed Gard with earnest intensity. "And then I knew. God revealed himself as a God of unconditional love, and it was that moment that started my journey."

Ann explained that she has a strong, Godly upbringing in the rural agrarian South of the United States. Depending on one's perspective, this upbringing might be seen as harsh and abusive (intense farm labor), or could be seen as rigorous yet loving. There is a message of deliverance for us in religion: God can help us let go of old past patterns, addictive patterns of thought.

Ann testified that at the University in the 1960s, she saw people drafted into the war. One man, in particular, was drafted and wrote her letters while in the Vietnam war. She observed a disturbing change in his bearing in those letters. As a consequence, she became angry at God at all this suffering. She became bitter at life and toward the leaders of our world for using humans in this way. Seeing as no pastor or priest could answer her questions about suffering, she walked away from God—was agnostic/atheistic—for about 10 years until finding The Urantia Book.

On the Urantia movement/community

Gard Jameson believes The Urantia Book to be what it claims to be. He believes it is here because our world is in "a spiritual emergency," today's world resembling Ancient Rome. Fear and anger have become objects of worship through modern media, to say nothing of the casinos of Las Vegas that are akin to dreary secular temples. Remember: you become more like that which you worship. Let that object be God.

Gard asserts that anyone who takes the 5th ER seriously must commit themselves to the inner life and to worship. Chris adds that it is apparently sad to record that too many "readers of The Urantia Book" are only just that—they read the book surficially, not digesting its truths. Chris agrees you must have a contemplative life (the inner temple) for the 5th ER to be accessible to you. This is a necessity, not a luxury. Byron adds that a book alone is not, nor ever has been, a religion or religious experience; there always is a structure of worship, symbolism, traditions, a community of elder teachers... the evolution of a culture cannot be ignored.

The group speculates on the resistance to socialized religion in the Urantia movement. This fear of "church-ification," whatever that word might mean. Gard thinks this word stems from a domination of fear, anxiety, and anger in the lives of many. The time has come for us to get a sense of spiritual urgency, says Gard. We must become evangels, "inviting people to this dance" of the contemplative life. Instead of letting popular media's "projectors" shine dreadful images into the world, we ourselves should become projectors, says Chris, of the spiritual and the cosmic. Demonstrate we can be in the world, but not of the world. Let your light so shine...

The group agrees that retreats, or "vacations with God" are crucial. Retreats should include contemplative practice, not be packed with endless activity and intellectual chatter. James wishes this would catch on more in the Urantia movement.

Other topics

Gard mentions Lectio Divina, a four-fold monastic practice. Gard's interpretation of its four aspects as they relate to mind are: (1) sensory aspect; (2) reflective aspect; (3) effective moral response; and (4) rest. The first three are well understood and taught by Christianity, but the fourth is little explored, he says. Chris adds that the solution to being befogged by much thinking is not more thinking still, but rest. Let go of all the part-wise analysis and let spirit gravity pull you upward; find a peace of presence in the inner life. This is not a material technique at all.

Byron alludes to being aware of one's awareness, and Chris added on by explaining the hourglass analogy of mind popular on Symmetry of Soul. The upper domain is the domain of spiritualized mind, where the Thought Adjuster dwells. From this vantage point, our animal-origin self can be observed. The animal-origin self is serviceable scaffolding but, like Stage 1 of a rocketship, eventually must be jettisoned when no longer serviceable.

The topic of parenting, discipline, and television is touched on. The fundamental issue at play, says Chris, is not television. It's the notion that children are innately divine and innately self-actualizing, that they should be allowed to be natural and receive no parenting. Actually, Lucifer said that‏! Any television or screen (today, Internet-connected ones) need not be some "insurmountable seductress," says Chris. If a child is a child of God, a nascent objective phenomenon, that child can stand unmoved by any and all such screens.