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Everyday Ethics

by Eileen Laurence

General Conference 1990

Snowmass, Colorado

Like most of us here in this room, I lead a varied and busy professional life. I interact with a lot of people, most of whom are not Urantia Book readers, but many of whom are actively participating in a religious life both professionally and privately. As I go about my daily chores trying to live the concepts of the book, I have begun to ask myself some basic questions:

1. Is there a difference between morality and ethics? They are often used in the same sentence such as "the mores (religious, moral, and ethical) together with property, pride, and chivalry, stabilize the institution of marriage and family." (*939)

2. If there is a difference between moral and ethical, what is it?

3. How has our conception of morality and ethics changed since the appearance of this fifth epochal revelation, The Urantia Book?

4. What is being done in our present American society to address moral and ethical questions about our evolving business organizations, the connection between government and the media, ethics and chronic illness, ethics and neonatal care? Is anyone taking the time to share thoughts on ethics in the global community?

All of these questions grow out of a personal desire to be and do my best, following the example of Jesus' life to the best of my ability. Being a parent I want to take any opportunity I have to encourage our young people to think and behave on the highest level of moral and ethical understanding. Being a teacher I know that actions speak louder than words, so I am sensitive to some degree of the responsibility I have towards my students, not only in dealing with subject matter, but in the way I associate with them as sisters and brothers.

In my work, I do not normally deal with life and death situations, although some of my students would argue that point when performance time comes. My worshipful problem solving has to do with an evenness of relationships between me and my students; i.e., not playing favorites. This is an area that I approach carefully, trying to contact the divine spirit within each of them -challenging when dealing with middle and upper school students.

Advanced technical knowledge and skill has led, however, to a need in our society for sound ethical thinking and decision making in such areas as medicine, law, science and finance. I do believe that the way an individual lives can affect the community around her or him, and I think we have to be sure that the speed of our communications does not impede our ability to seriously and deeply think about the repercussions of our actions. We really are a global village, drinking the same water and breathing the same air as everyone else on the planet.

Let's look at the possible difference between those two words, ethical and moral. Webster defines moral as "1. relating to, dealing with, or capable of making the distinction between right and wrong in conduct." Synonyms are righteous, ethical.

Ethical is defined as "1. having to do with ethics or morality; or of conforming to moral standards." Ethics are "1. the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment; moral philosophy." I don't find those definitions helpful in separating the meaning of the two words, ethical and moral. They seem almost synonymous; however, quotes from The Urantia Book do seem to differentiate.

In describing the seven developmental epochs of an average world a Secondary Lanonandek Son of the Reserve Corps said of the fifth level, the epoch of philosophy and brotherhood: "The society of this age becomes ethical, and the mortals of such an era are truly becoming moral beings. Wise moral beings are capable of establishing human brotherhood on such a progressing world. Ethical and moral beings can learn how to live in accordance with the golden rule." (*577)

In the paper on the Evolution of Local Universes, a Mighty Messenger temporarily attached to the Supreme Council of Nebadon, assigned to this mission by Gabriel of Salvington, tells us that "The Creator Son rules supreme in all matters of ethical association, the relations of any division of creatures to any other class of creatures or of two or more individuals within any given group." (*363)

In the Foundations of Religious Faith paper a Melchizedek of Nebadon, speaking of the evidences of religion, says that "The difference in the religions of various ages is wholly dependent on the difference in man's [the person's] comprehension of reality and on his[her] differing recognition of moral values, ethical relationships, and spirit realities." (*1127)

In the final paper of The Urantia Book on the Faith of Jesus, a midwayer writes, "The human mind does not create real values; human experience does not yield universe insight. Concerning insight, the recognition of moral values and the discernment of spiritual meanings, all that the human mind can do is to discover, recognize, interpret, and choose.

The moral values of the universe become intellectual possessions by the exercise of the three basic judgments, or choices, of the mortal mind:

1. Self-judgment--moral choice.

2. Social-judgment--ethical choice.

3. God-judgment--religious choice." (*2094)

To my understanding, these quotes point to the fact that, as used in The Urantia Book, the word moral refers most often to the individual and ethical relates to an association of individuals or groups.

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Carol Gilligan has done a lot of research in the way women think and behave. In reading Mapping the Moral Domain, edited by Carol Gilligan, Janie Victoria Ward, and Jill McLean Taylor, Piaget was quoted as having said, "apart from our relations to other people, there can be no moral necessity."

In the same book Simone Weil is said to have defined morality as "the silence in which one can hear the unheard voices." Interesting, in light of our knowledge of the work of the Thought Adjuster.

Carol Gilligan has defined a justice perspective and a care perspective. Justice has to do with relationships organized in terms of equality, symbolized by balancing of scales. Moral concerns focus on problems of oppression, problems stemming from inequality, and the moral ideal is one of reciprocity or equal respect. This way of thinking and relating to others is living the golden rule as it was understood before Jesus' teachings, do unto others as you would have done to you.

"To treat others as you would like to be treated demands distance and objectivity." (p.74) The care perspective speaks of a relationship connoting responsiveness or engagement, a resiliency of connection that is symbolized by a network or web. Moral concerns focus on problems of detachment or disconnection or abandonment, or indifference, and the moral ideal is one of attention and response.

In my opinion that points towards ethical behavior in a situation involving two or more people based on the moral understandings of the individuals, "working out the least painful alternative for all those involved, seeing the situation in its context, working within an existential reality and ensuring that all persons are understood in their own terms." "We can appreciate the passionate clarity of a face value judgment, the generosity of a composite picture judgment that looks for the good side, and the integrity of a multiple lens judgment that recognizes that actions that satisfy one's conscience may not be truly helpful." (p.97)

In the present-day world of fast communications and vast networking, we must realize that our behavior may have broad repercussions. We need to recognize and take that into consideration when acting. Let's examine that phrase, "integrity of a multiple lens judgment."

The word integrity comes from a root meaning wholeness, soundness, entire. It is a way of looking at matters that is found most often in a woman's way of seeing matters, according to the research of Gilligan and colleagues. To act with integrity is to bring a sense of honesty, sincerity and wholeness to our thinking and decision making.

The Urantia Book says in the Real Nature of Religion paper, "In and through all the historic vicissitudes of religion there ever persists that which is indispensable to human progress and survival, the ethical conscience and the moral consciousness." (*1107)

Our spiritual teachers seem to be saying that before we can become responsible, ethical participants with our sisters and brothers, we must become aware of our private moral fiber and strive to improve it daily. I seem to remember the admonition that before we attempt to remove the splinter from our neighbor's eye, we first remove the log from our own.

We know that the Thought Adjuster arrives with the first moral choice we make somewhere between the ages of 5 and 6. That fragment of God is our very best friend and is an untiring guide working from within to nurture our evolving soul. In addition to these inner urgings we have other sources of aid in our spiritual growth such as the Seraphic Guardians of Destiny, who work from the outside in. "Seraphim are mind stimulators; they continually seek to promote circle-making decisions in human mind. They do this, not as does the Adjuster, operating from within and through the soul, but rather from the outside inward, working through the social, ethical, and moral environment of human beings." (*1245)

We often joke in the Laurence household that we should be careful in our prayers. Opportunities for spiritual growth seem to present themselves constantly without our having asked for them. We are comforted, however, by knowing that the book says, "To accept the guidance of a seraphim rarely means attaining a life of ease. In following this leading you are sure to encounter, and if you have the courage, to traverse, the rugged hills of moral choosing and spiritual progress." (*1245)

In the Planetary Mortal Epochs paper at the bottom of page 597 there is a paragraph on "Ethical Awakening." "Only ethical consciousness can unmask the immorality of human intolerance and the sinfulness of fratricidal strife. Only a moral conscience can condemn the evils of national envy and racial jealousy. Only moral beings will ever seek for that spiritual insight which is essential to living the golden rule."

Later in that same section, on page 598, we read that "The quickest way to realize the brotherhood of man on Urantia is to effect the spiritual transformation of present-day humanity. The only technique for accelerating the natural trend of social evolution is that of applying spiritual pressure from above, thus augmenting moral insight while enhancing the soul capacity of every mortal to understand and love every other mortal. Mutual understanding and fraternal love are transcendent civilizers and mighty factors in the worldwide realization of the brotherhood of man[kind]." We have help on every side.

We have but to ask for it, which leads us to look at ethical prayer.

We know that "No prayer can be ethical when the petitioner seeks for selfish advantage over his fellows [others]. Selfish and materialistic praying is incompatible with the ethical religions which are predicated on unselfish and divine loveSelfish praying transgresses the spirit of all ethics founded on living justice. Prayer must never be so prostituted as to become a substitute for action. All ethical prayer is a stimulus to action and a guide to the progressive striving for idealistic goals of superself-attainment." (*997)

We are advised to be persistent in our prayers. In the 11th chapter of Luke is recalled the story of the person who knocked on the neighbor's door asking for some food to feed another friend who had arrived unexpectedly. At first rejected because of the late hour, the neighbor finally answered the call when the surprised host continued to knock. "What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13)

In Paul's letters to the Romans we are told, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)

The Chief of the Urantia Midwayers clearly states that "Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow. The word value of a prayer is purely autosuggestive in private devotions and sociosuggestive in group devotions. God answers the soul's attitude, not the words." (*1002)

The Jews have a style of song called the Niggun where nonsense syllables are sung in prayer. I had two seniors approach me this past graduation with a suggestion of a song they wanted to sing at that celebration. The words were innocuous, but the music and style of singing was very touching and transmitted just the right message to the parents.

Which takes me back to my everyday world. Erickson has said, "to share true authority with the young would mean to acknowledge something which adults have learned to mistrust in themselves: a truly ethical potential." To Erickson, ethical concerns were a natural meeting ground between adults and adolescents, both rendered uncertain by the predicament of modern civilization. (Mapping the Moral Domain p. XV)

Jesus taught that the kingdom of God (the will of God) "was in itself a new standard of moral values, a new ethical yardstick wherewith to measure human conduct. It portrayed the ideal of a resultant new order of human society." (*1859) We are encouraged "to come as a little child, to receive the bestowal of sonship as a gift; to submit to the doing of the Father's will without questioning and in the full confidence and genuine trustfulness of the Father's wisdom, to come into the kingdom free from prejudice and preconception; to be open-minded and teachable like an unspoiled child." (*1861)

The young people I teach are encouraged to grow through their interpretation of the golden rule from just seeing themselves as sibling inhabitants of the same neighborhood to the recognition that this golden rule was the "positive injunction of a great moral teacher who embodied in this statement the highest concept of moral obligation as regards all fraternal [sibling] relationships." (*1950)

The Urantia Book further says that the "true cosmic meaning of this rule of universal relationship [ethics?] is revealed only in its spiritual realization, in the interpretation of the law of conduct by the spirit of the Son to the spirit of the Father that indwells the soul of mortal man[kind]. And when such spirit-led mortals realize the true meaning of this golden rule, they are filled to overflowing with the assurance of citizenship in a friendly universe, and their ideals of spirit reality are satisfied only when they love their fellows [cohabitants] as Jesus loved us all, and that is the reality of the realization of the love of God." (*1950)

As for my future relationship with present day organized religious groups, I remember the advice given Jesus when he was about to embark on his mission to our planet, "As you may see fit, you are to identify yourself with existing religious and spiritual movements as they may be found on Urantia but in every possible manner seek to avoid the formal establishment of an organized cult, a crystallized religion, or a segregated ethical grouping of mortal beings." (*1330)

I have sought to work within three major religious groups and be open to dialogue with others for whom religion is more than a passing fancy or a family tradition, but I still feel the need to gather as we do here in Snowmass to discuss religious ideas and experiences emanating from our study of the book.

Referring to the last question I asked at the beginning of this talk: What is being done in our present American society to address moral and ethical questions about our evolving business organizations, the connections between government and the media, ethics and chronic illness, ethics and neonatal care and ethics in the global community? Moral individuals are gathering in other parts of our world to discuss these issues.

In a publication of the World Business Academy, John Renesch from San Francisco describes an emergence of a new consciousness in the world of business, articulating some changes of thinking from the traditional ways to the emerging new trends; from controlling leadership to evoking leadership, from solving problems to creating opportunities, from a hierarchy of unequals to a voluntary association of equals, from management that supervises and intimidates employees to one that inspires and cares for teammates.

The Hastings Center in Briarcliff Manor, New York, exists to "confront and attempt to resolve the moral problems brought on by advances in the biomedical sciences and the professions; To educate the general public on the moral aspects of those scientific, medical, and professional issues that will inevitably change our own lives and those of our children; To take on some of the most difficult moral dilemmas of our society: AIDS, care of the dying, chronic illness, animal welfare, artificial reproduction, genetic screening, professional ethics, justice in health care, long-term care ethics."

In the spring of 1988 the Iowa division of the United Nations Association-USA presented an international colloquium to explore "the substantial moral and ethical dimensions of choices and trade-offs to be made in order to achieve a truer ethical balance between freedom and social responsibility and how these choices and trade-offs can be translated into hope and reasoned action." Their vision of the immediate future is "firmly rooted in a present awareness that political will begins with people."

Just as we are gathering here to discuss religious ideas and think about our own moral health and habits, we are advised to apply the revelatory information from The Urantia Book to present day religions. I suggest that as we hone our own moral fiber based on our understanding of the teachings in our blue book we likewise enter into groups such as the ones mentioned to add our thinking to those who are meeting to discuss such important practical communal, national and international problem solving.

"The teachings of Jesus constituted the first Urantian religion which so fully embraced a harmonious co-ordination of knowledge, wisdom, faith, truth, and love as completely and simultaneously to provide temporal tranquillity, intellectual certainty, moral enlightenment, philosophic stability, ethical sensitivity, God-consciousness, and the positive assurance of personal survival." (*1112)

We need to remember to trust that "truly ethical potential" Erickson referred to that we adults may have ceased to acknowledge. To paraphrase a quote on page 1115, true religion is that sublime and profound conviction within the soul which compellingly admonishes us that it would be wrong for us not to believe in those morontial realities which constitute our highest ethical and moral concepts, our highest interpretation of life's greatest values and the universe's deepest realities.

I believe that what we do to see the world through the lenses of ethics and morality in our professional and personal lives will make a difference.

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