Having been a part of Divine Administration for the past 23 years, I have had many experiences and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, realizations and disappointments, triumphs and tragedies. In short, I have lived a fairly normal life in many ways, but yet different in many ways. I have been in the world, but not so much of it. When I came to be a part of this culture in 1996 at 22 years old, I was responding to a strong inner knowing that I had a calling and a destiny to meet, and that I needed to live a spiritual life, albeit not a conventional one.
What I found was indeed an unconventional, non-traditional religious culture that was pushing the boundaries of conventional spiritual living, and yet with a deep respect for the highest moral standards of behavior as defined by centuries of mainly Western religious tradition, that some could call very conservative in nature—a unique blend of liberal thinking and feeling and conservative action. The highest examples of which were then and still continue to be the Founders, Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase.
Over the years, I have stood by Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase and our community through the disingenuous attacks by the media on our morality and standards of conduct, and our willingness to forego shallow and selfish consumer culture. But worst of all have been the attacks on the characters of our Founders, in particular Gabriel of Urantia, who is the most visible and influential member of our community, both publicly and for us individuals who have voluntarily accepted his counsel and direction into our lives. The key word here being voluntarily.
I would like to emphasize that neither Gabriel of Urantia, nor Niánn Emerson Chase, nor anyone else in this community has made any claims to absolute perfection. We’re all human, and we make mistakes, but I and the rest of the community have been many times witness to Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase’s humility when mistakes have either been brought to their attention, or they have discerned it in themselves. And that’s very telling of their sincerity of purpose and their striving to be the best they can possibly be, which is inspiring to the rest of the community to try to become better ourselves. When leaders do lead with humility and love, it then is a powerful force to promote personal change and inspire unselfish service in their followers, as well as a powerful rebuke to those who use their positions of leadership and influence for self-aggrandizement, which is all too common in today’s world.
Now, I would like to address some of the common accusations brought against us in general:
That Gabriel of Urantia is abusive.
Gabriel of Urantia’s forthright honesty with people can feel hard to those that have problems within themselves that they’re not willing to humbly see. This particular manifestation of honesty is not unique to him as a spiritual teacher, as there are many examples of true and genuine spiritual teachers over the ages who have also taught courageously to people, knowing full-well that these would-be students would almost certainly take their correction the wrong way, distort it, gossip about it, and sanctify their victimhood by misrepresenting the teacher to those others who have no interest in, or are actively hostile to, the teaching. This is always, without exception, an unwillingness of the former students to take personal responsibility for their own circumstances. This is a well-known problem, not only to spiritual teachers but to modern-day therapists as well.
Gabriel of Urantia teaches his students in accordance with their psycho-spiritual needs and with a high degree of accuracy, due to his advanced perceptions of each person’s spiritual status. Those who have accepted and applied his counsel and made the changes they need to make always benefit and their lives show a marked improvement over time. Those who reject it often turn bitter and hateful, blame him for their problems, and so their problems continue to get worse, and they never, ever talk about those problems that Gabriel of Urantia tried to help them with.
I’ve seen this happen over and over and over again in the last 23 years. It’s not rocket science. Many “spiritual teachers” that are recognized by the dominant culture today are mostly placators, who are enjoying being famous and are a far cry from a real spiritual teacher, who gets to the heart of the spiritual problem in a very direct and personal way, and so the standard of evaluation is horribly inadequate. Simply stated, Gabriel of Urantia doesn’t shine people on.
Gabriel of Urantia lives like a king while the rest of the community is deprived.
That’s a tough one to figure out for me, since I have never personally resented Gabriel of Urantia for the very modest homes he has lived in over the years (with his family of 7), or the tiny swimming pools, or for the big holiday meals when I’ve been a guest with my children in his home (which have been some of the highlights of my life), or for the gifts he’s received from people over the decades that he decorates his home and office with, or for the used but well-cared-for cars he drove for the last 50 years, or the inexpensive but tasteful clothing he wears, or the strict and somewhat bland diet he has to maintain in order to remain healthy (oh, but he drinks Perrier at eighty-three cents a bottle!).
But yeah, I guess he’s just manipulating and controlling me with that million-plus dollar community home I recently lived in that makes his home look like a log cabin (albeit a well-maintained and cared for log cabin). Oh, and the very clean and fuel-efficient hybrid cars that I am privileged to drive really is such artful depredation on his part, not to mention the organic food I and my children eat daily, or high-speed internet I have access to, or the quality musical equipment, or the world-class recording studio I’m privileged to work and record in, not to mention the really loving, super talented, but humble people here… dang, I never realized what a victim I am. I think I’d better call Rick Ross for some deprogramming.
Community members are denied medical care.
The vast majority of community members that have spent any significant amount of time here find that their health problems decline, and that they need to see doctors less often. And those that do need medical care readily receive it through the various healthcare programs offered to qualified persons, including full-time religious workers by the state (our community is officially recognized as a church by the U.S. government, and this is no small accomplishment). This is due to the quality of relationships with significant others we have here, the advanced spiritual teachings we study and apply into our lives, the responsibility we take for our own thinking (News Flash! Resentment, anger, blame, and envy make you sick in the head, not to mention disease your body!).
Gabriel of Urantia (with the aid of the community eldership and of the community members) assumes the responsibility to pay not only for the dental bills of community members, but all other bills, e.g. food, clothing, housing, electrical, water, gas, cars, any and all household items, furniture, power tools, computers, musical instruments, classroom teaching supplies, art supplies, farm equipment, internet networking gear, video cameras… Oh, my God, does the list go on!
On top of that, each community member receives a personal stipend that we can use to buy anything (within reason) that we feel “deprived” of (he’s just so cruel…). I have been witness to Gabriel of Urantia’s reluctance to spend money on himself when he’s had a toothache, preferring to endure it until it passed, and numerous other acts of self-denial where money is concerned.
People don’t speak up for fear of reprisal.
In my own experience, if you feel like you’re not being heard on something, or that you have a grievance to air, there are avenues of redress that can be followed. I personally have counselors that I trust to hear out my problems, and I am not disappointed in their sympathetic understanding. Often just being given the opportunity to express myself to someone else who is wiser and more mature than me makes my problems seem much smaller and less significant, and gives me increased power to solve those problems of what is usually an emotional adjustment to my individual circumstances. It just takes courage to properly bring those problems to be out in the open, because in my heart, I know at some deep level, that they’re often petty and born of wounded pride, and I might have to endure the embarrassment of making that known.
Making yourself vulnerable to a trusted counselor is a tremendously relieving and healing experience, and it’s amazing how evanescent those seemingly heavy burdens truly are, but often people would rather hang on to their hurts, because chronic victimhood gives a false sense of power, and losing that victim status means change.
The people who have left our community that make these claims, these false champions of us “victims”, are actually fear-ridden, irresponsible people who haven’t been able to let go of their own wounded pride and petty grievances, and won’t trade the molten gods of bitterness and self-exaltation for the freedoms of forgiveness and peace. They would rather stay eternal victims than bravely face their own problems.
Gabriel of Urantia controls people’s relationships.
Well, I know for me personally he has helped me steer clear of some train wrecks, where I was in some pretty low places and seeking for solace with the wrong people. At these times I strongly desired to go the way of immediate gratification, but he counseled me otherwise, and although it was very hard, I took his advice voluntarily, and thank God I did. I have observed that the people who have not taken his counsel regarding relationships, and who had real problems in that area, are often the ones who are screaming the loudest for him to be crucified.
Intimate relationships are some of the hardest areas to get right in life, and Gabriel of Urantia just knows because he has learned from his mistakes, and he’s a good learner. He has let it make him wise, and when you follow the counsel of a wise man, you too become wiser.
I have little pity for the people who have ignored his counsel regarding relationships and have created the mess that is their personal lives, or for those who are angry that they can’t be sexually promiscuous in this community, or who wrongfully accuse him because they were told that it’s not good to want to get into a relationship with someone who is far less mature than they are, out of a desire to be in control, or those who get mad at him and leave because they’re told that they really should grow spiritually and be whole in their spiritual lives, rather than sacrificing the happiness of themselves and their partners to the pathologic misery of a co-dependent relationship, and the list goes on ad nauseam.
As I stated earlier in this article, our community falls on the conservative side of the spectrum where sexual relationships are concerned, and because sexual promiscuity and co-dependence is psychologically harmful, both to individuals and societies, especially small subcultures like ours, we don’t allow it. Our community simply is not the repository for unplanned and unwanted pregnancies that just happen, due to casual sex outside of the committed and loving relationships of relatively responsible and mature men and women.
Such pregnancies are often a severe strain on them as individuals and on the society, usually end in separation to the detriment of the children born, and are NOT good for a budding spiritual community that is trying to live according to higher (some might say more traditional) standards of familial cohesion—all too much to get into further in this article. People who want to live that way are free, and encouraged, to leave our community, which brings me to…
No one is free to leave the community.
I remember years ago, I was attending a social mixer at a nice art gallery with one of our landscaping clients in Sedona, and the client asked me (in an awkward attempt at open mindedness), “How’s life out there on the compound?” I nearly choked on my cracker. “Yeah, the razor wire’s getting a little dull these days…” While it’s true that we do have procedures regarding travel, and that we don’t just hop in the car and drive where we please when we please, these procedures have been implemented for various reasons. First of all, cars (even used) and gas are expensive commodities.
As an eco-village we need to be more organized in our travel planning so we’re not wasting gas money, or underutilizing the cars that we have (3 people all going to the same place, all taking different cars, leaving 10 minutes apart), or having less-experienced and less-responsible drivers take some of the nicer cars (we have cars for everybody, all well maintained, but some don’t take as good care of these cars as others do). And of course we individually and in groups and as families go to movies, restaurants, hikes, shopping, day-trips, camping overnight, etc. and are not “trapped” by any stretch of the imagination.
Now, regarding people not being able to leave the community, that’s pure nonsense. Most people who have taken sacred and holy vows to be here simply can’t face themselves or the rest of us when they decide to turn their backs on those vows, so they sneak away in a dishonest and cowardly manner, then they mollify their own shame and disappointment in themselves by blaming us. Some people have left honorably, and they’re always given a dignified exit.
We encourage people to leave if they feel that they can’t live up to our standards, and we have a very stringent screening process for people to even join the community. Some people have accused us of being a cult precisely because they were not accepted during the admissions process.
We don’t allow homosexuality here.
That is true. Again, we’re fairly conservative where these things are concerned. But that doesn’t mean that we hate homosexuals or are “homophobic” in any way. Jesus taught love for the individual over and above the group identity. We are a heterosexual community. Laws against hate crimes involving violence and slander should be more stringent, and we, being labeled “a cult” at times, are very sympathetic to the marginalized and the misrepresented.
It’s astounding to me, when I can perceive the benevolent motivation clearly in the lives of our leaders, Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase, that people would call them cult leaders. It’s disgusting. When I’ve experienced personally the benefits of adhering to the counsel of eldership and fighting the spiritual battle of good vs. evil in myself, it is very clear to me that those who hurl accusations at us are “people of the lie.” Because they have made the choice to accept what is easy and quick over what is good and difficult.
One only needs to look to the life of Jesus to see this exemplified. He was called a cult leader and crucified. When He uncompromisingly called out wrongdoing in the religious leaders of his day, who were extorting and enslaving the people they claimed to be leading, His character was assassinated, He was barred from speaking in the synagogues (the media outlets of His day), and eventually murdered, all with the assistance of one of His own apostles, who did not like that Jesus was telling him that he had problems within himself that needed to change.